Australia seal place in U19 WC final against India

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Australia overcame Ali Raza special to seal a place in the ICC Men’s U19 World Cup final against India after defeating Pakistan by a wicket in the semifinal match here on Thursday.

Much like India on Tuesday, Australia decided to chase in the second semifinal against Pakistan. Hugh Weibgen’s call was backed by his bowlers. Tom Straker led the charge with his six-wicket haul, to bowl out Pakistan for a modest total. Straker’s 6/24 were the best figures by a bowler in a U19 World Cup semifinal or final.

An interesting chase brewed up as Pakistan fought back on the back of Ali Raza and Arafat Minhas. However, Australia managed to overcome Pakistan by the barest of margins.

Harry Dixon and Sam Konstas helped Australia to a steady start in pursuit of 180. The duo added 33 runs in the first Powerplay. Ali Raza, however, struck back for Pakistan at the start of the second Powerplay. He got one to nip back in and sent back Konstas’ off-stump cartwheeling.

Soon after, Pakistan had a lucky break in the 14th over when Hugh Weibgen hit a full toss from Naveed Khan straight into the hands of Haroon Arshad at cover. Wickets continued to tumble as a miscommunication led to the run out of Harjas Singh in the 16th over, while Ryan Hicks played on a Ubaid Shah delivery in the next over.

Dixon and Ollie Peake then came together to rebuild the Australia innings. Their steady progress was informed by positive strokeplay, and soon Australia’s chase was back on track. Dixon brought up his half-century in the 24th over. However, just when the game was turning in Australia’s favour, Arafat Minhas bowled Dixon with a beauty. The left-arm spinner bowled with control, and Australia’s asking rate went up.

The arrival of Tom Campbell helped a left-right batting combination in operation. Campbell and Peake did a follow-up to the previous partnership and helped Australia edge closer to their ask. Pakistan needed a special act to bring them back into the game, and Minhas provided exactly that. He bowled Campbell for 25 in the 39th over. Then Raza removed Peake for 49 to leave the game evenly poised.

Raza’s double-wicket final over put Pakistan just one away from an appearance in the final. However, MacMillan kept his cool and saw Australia through in the final over.

Shahzaib Khan and Shamyl Hussain were off to their usual safe start, overcoming the Australia new-ball bowlers in the initial overs. First change bowler, Tom Straker broke this stand. Shamyl Hussain tried to pull the bowler but was caught in the ninth over. Callum Vidler struck in the very next over, with the big wicket of Shahzaib Khan.

The southpaw, who had led Pakistan’s scoring charts in the U19 World Cup, tried to pierce Vidler past point but his shot was intercepted by Hugh Weibgen.

Pakistan’s troubles continued in the second Powerplay. Straker had his second in the 15th over and Raf MacMillan contributed soon after, by trapping Ahmad Hassan leg before. Azan Awais and Haroon Arshad tried to reverse the momentum by stitching a fifth wicket partnership, but when a returning Mahli Beardman cleaned up the latter with a beauty, Australia were right on top.

Awais and Arafat Minhas were able to hold their own over the next few overs, and freed their arms to pick the scoring rate. 50 runs came in the overs 31-40.

It was Straker who struck for Australia yet again, breaking the key partnership after he got Awais (52) to nick one behind. And when Minhas fell after scoring a fifty of his own, Pakistan were staring down the barrel. Straker cleaned up the tail to finish with 6/24.

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