Kuldeep Yadav became the first Indian bowler to take a hat-trick in Under-19 World Cup history and in the process, sent Scotland Under-19s crashing to 88 all out in Dubai. But India ended up making heavy weather of the chase after what was predicted to be a cakewalk, given the gulf between the two sides. Scotland's spinners had entertained thoughts of an upset, having pinned India down at 22 for 5, but Sarfaraz Khan and Deepak Hooda held their nerve and ensured India didn't lose any more wickets.
Kuldeep, the left-arm chinaman bowler is among the few of his type in world cricket, and Scotland batted like they had never faced anyone of his type before. Yadav's spin partner, Aamir Gani, was just as incisive and their four-wicket hauls ended Scotland's innings within 30 overs.
Kuldeep's mystery element claimed the wickets of Nick Farrar, Kyle Stirling and Alex Baum in three successive balls spread out over two overs. Farrar looked to sweep, but got a top edge that lobbed to fine leg.
Kuldeep didn't need any assistance for his next two wickets, relying on his own skills to fox the batsmen. Bowling round the wicket to Stirling, Kuldeep generously tossed it up but the batsman was caught in two minds about playing a shot. In the end, he merely padded up and the ball straightened and struck him in front of middle and leg stump.
Kuldeep's hat-trick ball was a spinner's dream. It was a combination of flight and sharp turn from outside off stump that snuck through the big gap between Baum's pad and bat, and dismantled the stumps.
Scotland were already struggling for control before Kuldeep struck. The seamers, Chama Milind and Avesh Khan took a wicket each before both were taken off after ten overs. From then on, it was the Kuldeep-Gani show. Gani is an offspinner in the Ramesh Powar mould, with a similar approach to the crease and tendency to bowl much slower through the air. Zander Muir went a bit too deep in the crease trying to cut and was out hit-wicket.
Kuldeep's hat-trick then reduced Scotland to 59 for 5, before Chris Sole edged Gani to the wicketkeeper Ankish Bains who took the catch in the second attempt. The opener Andrew Umeed, the only batsman who looked like getting a fifty, was squared up by a quicker one from Gani for 44 before Kuldeep took his fourth wicket, getting Mark Watt to edge to slip. A brilliant running catch by Sanju Samson running to his left in the deep ended the innings on 88. It was a bizarre scorecard which read - 44, 7,1,7,0,0,5,2,16,0,1*.
While Scotland hadn't prepared for Kuldeep and Gani, India looked just as shaky against one of their own - Chayank Gosain. The Delhi-born left-arm spinner was given the new ball and he triggered early panic when he got rid of Akhil Herwadkar and Vijay Zol in his first two overs. Gosain bowled round the wicket to both left-handers and Herwadkar perished trying to cut while Zol failed to cover the line and edged to slip.
Gosain bowled his ten overs in one spell and he nipped out another wicket, getting Bains to chip to midwicket. The pressure was starting to tell on the Indian batsmen, with fielders in catching position and the urgency to score eventually cost Bains his wicket.
Gavin Main, the right-arm seamer, was lucky to get Samson lbw as replays showed the ball missing leg stump. Four balls later, Ricky Bhui played too early and chipped it low to short midwicket. The attacking field had claimed another wicket and India were reeling at 22 for 5.
Sarfaraz found himself in a pressure situation greater than that against Pakistan. With the reliable lower-order batsman Hooda, the pair slowly got India back on track. They were initially watchful against Gosain before Sarfaraz broke a boundary drought that lasted nearly six overs, by cutting Watt to cover. They released the pressure by pushing the ball into gaps and pinching as many singles as they could.
Hooda had gained enough confidence to charge Gosain and loft him for consecutive boundaries and at 60 for 5 at the end of 17 overs, India were on track. Sarfaraz hastened the chase with a four and a six off consecutive balls over cover off Watt, and finished the game in style with another four towards the same region.