The line-up for the final of the Under-19 World Cup should have been revealed on Friday but monsoonal showers disrupted the semi-final between South Africa and Pakistan, forcing play to be resumed on the reserve day. The match was seven balls short of the minimum 20 overs necessary for a result with Pakistan on 86 for 2. At the end of 20 overs on the Duckworth/Lewis method, Pakistan would have required 91 for a win, but they had to ensure not to lose any further wickets.
Ray Jennings, the South Africa coach, said he was satisfied with the 47-over contest being carried over into the reserve day. "To finish a game off in 20 overs is probably a little unfair, I don't want to play cricket like that," Jennings told Cricinfo. "We can have a fair game tomorrow and see if they [Pakistan] can get our target, which was a very good one. It's probably the best one posted in a top game in the tournament."
South Africa scored 260 for 8 after being put in by Pakistan and it was the second-highest total against a major team after India's 265 for 5 against West Indies. If Pakistan are to chase the target, they will have notched up the highest successful run-chase of the tournament. South Africa's performance was a result of gradual improvement through the tournament, after their middle-order barely chased 223 against West Indies and were dismissed for 149 against India in the group stages.
"There's a tremendous maturity among our players," Jennings said. "A lot of guys underestimate our players against spin. The top order played mature innings and the result was 260, which I think is a very good score on this wicket."
Jennings, however, was concerned with the prospect of playing continuous cricket for three days. "The only thing that worries me is that if we go through to the final we'll be playing three days in a row again," he said. "Whoever goes through, South Africa or Pakistan, will play three days in a row and that's reasonably unfair. We played three games in four days earlier and now we'll be playing three games in three days."
South Africa played West Indies and India on consecutive days in the group stage and lost to India, giving their match against Papua New Guinea must-win status. Even then they had to depend on India beating West Indies to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Another concern is the fitness of their captain Wayne Parnell who has been ill since the quarter-final clash against Bangladesh. He scored 57 and took 6 for 8 in that game despite the flu. Against Pakistan, he scored 17 and bowled two spells, taking 2 for 24 off his first six overs and 0 for 16 off his next three.
"He [Wayne] didn't look fit, he looked a bit tired today," Jennings said. "But so be it, he's won many games for us. He didn't look good in his second spell today."
Parnell has just one over to bowl tomorrow but will have to lead the team on the field. And if South Africa make it to the final, he'll barely have a day's rest before performing his all-round duties against India on Sunday.
George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo