The England football legend Gary Lineker once enviously said about the German side of the late 1980s and 90s: “Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” In the context of cricket, the same could be said about Australia. They always win the big final, and of late at the expense of India. In the last seven months alone, they have beaten India thrice in the final of a global tournament—first in the World Test Championship (WTC) final at The Oval, then the ODI World Cup final in Ahmedabad and now in the U-19 World Cup summit clash in Benoni.
Unlike India, Australia had stuttered to the final, enduring a close shave against Pakistan in the semifinal, but when it mattered they produced a ruthless performance reminiscent of their seniors to crush India by 79 runs to claim their fourth U-19 title. Piling 253 for 7, the highest total ever in an U-19 final, on what commentator Ian Bishop described as “one of the fastest surfaces I have ever seen for a U-19 World Cup, with significant lateral movement, bounce and carry”, they bowled out India for 174 runs.
Needless to say, Australia’s medium pacers thrived on the surface. Callum Vidler and Mahli Beardman troubled India’s batsmen with pace;
Charlie Anderson and Tom Straker sustained the pressure with tight bowling, before off-spinner Raf MacMilan reaped the harvest by grabbing three wickets.
Vidler, who politely refused to answer the broadcaster’s question on who is the fastest bowler among, produced the first jolt for India by removing opener Arshin Kulkarni cheaply. Adarsh Singh and Musheer Khan somehow managed to survive the powerplay. But Beardman, who came as second change, ran through the top order. The pacer from Dunsborough, West Australia, who has already played for his state ratcheted up the pace. The terrorized batsmen of India looked timid.
As with most pacers from the region, the legendary Dennis Lillee had a decisive influence on him. Three years ago, he pleaded with the Australian legend to take him under his wings, but Lillee initially refused. “DK (Lillee) had a rule that he wouldn’t work with anyone until they were 16. I had to do a little bit of waiting and a little bit of work but when I was about 15 I convinced him to finally have a look,” Beardman had told reporters ahead of their semifinal clash against Pakistan.
“We went down to the south Perth nets and had a bowl down there and I got along really well with him. Ever since then, he’s just been a massive mentor for me. He’s such a great man to have in my corner.”
Beardman, one of the quickest in the tournament, struck in his first over dismissing Musheer Khan, who again struggled against quality pace. Musheer, who was dropped at slips by Harry Dixon, never looked at ease during his 33-ball stay. Beardman’s second victim was India’s captain and tournament’s leading run-getter Uday Saharan, who slashed one straight to his counterpart Hugh Weibgen at backward point. Adarsh Singh, who fought the lone battle with a fine 47, eventually succumbed to Beardman’s bouncer.
The strapping bowler would thank Lillee at the post-match presentation as well. “I backed my short balls and tried to smash it into the wicket. Through DK, I’ve learnt a lot of mental stuff. Thinking about my bowling, thinking about field settings. He’s been incredible, always a pleasure to bowl alongside him,” he said.
What would really hurt India is that they let MacMillan grab three wickets. It was like a question that came out of the syllabus. The part-timer struck with his first ball and removed Sachin Dhas, who had looked unfazed against the pacers. A faint edge ended Dhas’ World Cup campaign. Aravelly Avanish chipped one straight back to the bowler for a duck. Raj Limbani yorked himself to end India’s last lingering hopes.
While batting was catastrophic, the bowlers would rue in letting Australia put on 253 for 7. After getting rid of Sam Konstas with the team score on 16 in 2.3 overs, they let Harry Dixon (42) and Hugh Weibgen (48) put on 78 runs for the second wicket. Though they lost two wickets in the space of adding five runs, Harjas Singh sprung to the occasion. He had managed only 49 runs in the tournament, but top-scored with a valuable 55 of 64 balls. The southpaw was at his imperious best against the spinners, hitting three sixes. Though Australia lost a cluster of wickets in the middle overs Oliver Peake’s 43-ball 46 not out gave them the final flourish. Medium pacer Raj Limbani (3/38) apart, none made a decisive impact, costing heavily.
India’s captain Saharan blamed his batsmen’s inability to execute plans against Australia’s pacers. ”We played a few rash shots today, didn’t spend time in the middle. We were prepared but couldn’t execute the plans,” he lamented. Or it could be that they were facing Australia, the Germany of world cricket, the ultimate tournament team. They always win.
397 India’s captain Uday Saharan emerged as the highest run-getter in the tournament, with a hundred and three fifty-plus scores.
4 This was Australia’s fourth U-19 title, and the first since 2010. This was also their 14th ICC title.