An Under-19 World Cup quarter-final involving India goes down to the wire, by default. England's eighth-wicket pair of Rob Jones and Rob Sayer held their nerve in a stand of 23 to take them home in the final over in their chase of 222, knocking out defending champions India. England looked favourites to get home comfortably at one stage, with Ben Duckett leading the way with a fifty before India's spinners seized control. But it came down to the team with the more reliable lower-order depth as England booked their place in the semi-finals.
It was a match that ebbed and flowed. England's fast bowlers pinned India down to 24 for 4 before their lower order, led by Deepak Hooda and Sarfaraz Khan shored them up to a competitive 221. It was then a contest between England's batsmen and India's spinners. Duckett's handling of the slower bowlers gave England the confidence that they could pull a win after a shaky start, but a few false shots that found the fielders brought India back into the game.
Duckett ensured that England didn't buckle under pressure against India's three spinners by employing the reverse sweep. England took the Powerplay in the 19th over and Duckett took on Hooda's offspin by fetching two boundaries to third man with the reverse sweep. He meted out the same treatment to Yadav, too, reverse-sweeping him for a four in front of square.
Ed Barnard and Duckett had added a positive 76 for the fourth wicket before Barnard gave Aamir Gani the charge and holed out to long-on. A few overs later, Duckett took the gamble of giving Kuldeep Yadav the charge and lobbed the ball to cover. Taking on India's strike spinner wasn't the smartest thing to do at that stage and England needed a lower-order rescue of their own.
India had another opening when Will Rhodes was beaten for turn by Yadav, with his side in trouble at 148 for 6. An error of judgment in the outfield, though, gave England a foothold and perhaps ruined India's chances in the final analysis. Clarke, on 8, tried to clear long-on but Hooda ran forward too quickly and the ball ended up sailing over him and to the boundary. Clarke went on to score 42 and brought the match back in England's favour.
India used spin from both ends, even introducing the part-timer Sarfaraz to contain the runs. Clarke charged Gani and launched him over extra cover before slogging Yadav to deep midwicket. However, when he tried to repeat the shot in the same over, he miscued a slog and Vijay Zol took a running catch backwards.
It came down to 15 needed off 12 but India conceded a crucial boundary off the last ball of the 49th over to bring it to four off six balls. Hooda dished out a low full toss down the leg side which Jones swept to fine leg with the fielder up. Sayer finished the job the next ball with a slash over point, sparking off wild celebrations.
England wouldn't have expected to be chasing 222 given the way they started with the ball. Matthew Fisher's fuller lengths had Akhil Herwadkar, Sanju Samson and Ricky Bhui edging behind the wicket. They eerily found themselves in a similar situation to the one in Townsville in 2012, reeling at 8 for 3 against England on a foggy morning in Dubai. Rewind to 2010 in Lincoln, and India were 2 for 3 in the first over, against Pakistan. Those games went down to the wire too.
At 24 for 4, the bad dreams of the Scotland game resurfaced but interestingly, Hooda was promoted over Sarfaraz, who had bailed India out twice.
The bowlers kept Zol and Hooda on a leash, giving away only two boundaries in the first 20 overs. Hooda broke a boundary drought that lasted nearly 16 overs when he charged the offpsinner Sayer and slammed one over cover. Zol and Hooda looked more at ease against spin, with Zol driving powerfully past cover. He fell punching Sayer to Duckett who took a low catch at cover. His 48 helped India add 87 after their early wobble.
Once the sun came out, the ball came on better and the shorter balls were easier to put away, as Hooda targeted the deep-midwicket boundary. In between, he kept looking for singles, dabbing it wide of the keeper with no slip catchers around. A run-out ended his innings on 68, when Jonathan Tattersall's diving under-arm throw hit the stumps.
India managed 24 off the batting Powerplay, but the bigger impact was reserved for the last ten overs, in which they managed 74. Sarfaraz enhanced his reputation as a finisher, and ended the innings in style with consecutive boundaries over cover, pounding his chest with his bat while walking back and gesturing to the India fans. Despite Sarfaraz's efforts, India discovered later that they were still short.