Australia Under-19s 181 for 9 (Peake 49, Raza 4-34) beat Pakistan Under-19s 179 (Awais 52, Minhas 52, Straker 6-24) by one wicket
An unbeaten tenth-wicket stand of 17 between Raf MacMillan
and Callum Vidler
took Australia past Pakistan in a topsy-turvy second semi-final in Benoni to seal a date against India in Sunday’s final for the 2024 Men’s Under-19 World Cup title.
Chasing only 180 after Tom Straker
‘s 6 for 24 wrecked Pakistan in the first innings, Australia nearly threw away their advantage with the bat after a few clumsy top-order dismissals brought some parity into the contest. The 15-year-old Ali Raza (4-34) struck thrice late in the day, but the young pair of MacMillan (19*) and Vidler (3*) staved off the challenge posed by the inspired Pakistan bowling attack in the death overs to just about take Australia over the line. The winning runs in the final over were scored off an inside edge that very nearly crashed into the stumps but instead trickled behind for four.
Australia also had opener Harry Dixon
and wicketkeeper-batter Oliver Peake
to thank for their contributions with the bat that held their fragile innings together.
Dixon, who models his game on David Warner, hit his third half-century of the tournament and perhaps the most important of his youth ODI career with 50 in 75 balls. He held one end up as Sam Konstas (14), Hugh Weibgen (4), Harjas Singh (run out for 5) and Ryan Hicks (0) fell in quick succession to leave Australia reeling at 59 for 4. Along with Peake, he added 43 for the sixth wicket, but a double-wicket burst from left-arm spinner Arafat Minhas
brought Pakistan into the game.
Pakistan then went ahead in the contest when Raza with his blistering pace picked off Peake – on 49 – and Straker in the 42nd and 46th overs respectively. He then bowled the No. 10 Mahli Beardman for a duck leaving Australia scrambling with only one wicket in hand. But the tenth and most important wicket remained elusive.
Earlier in the day, Pakistan were inserted to bat by Australia captain Weibgen. On a surface with ample spin and enough lateral movement, four of Pakistan’s top six were out for single digits. Straker, with his height and pace, dismissed Shamyl Hussain (17) and Saad Baig (3) while fellow new-ball bowler Vidler got Shahzaib Khan (4). Offspinners MacMillan and Campbell also found enough purchase to keep the left-hand heavy Pakistan line-up guessing.
Two batters who did look comfortable for Pakistan, though, were the No. 3 Azan Awais
and the No. 7 Minhas. They both struck 52 of different styles, to ensure Pakistan could make 179. Awais was more reserved, playing according to the struggling situation Pakistan found themselves in, while Minhas was more attacking in the back end, with the team searching for a respectable total. Their 54-run fifth-wicket stand seemed to set Pakistan up for a score closer to 200, but their dismissals in the 41st and 45th overs gave Australia an opening to exploit.
And that came in the form of Straker’s extreme pace. He picked up a fourth wicket when Ubaid Khan mistimed a shot to cover in the 47th over, and when he returned for the 49th, Straker rattled the stumps of both the No. 10 and No. 11 Pakistan batters. In a game of close margins, the seven balls Pakistan failed to face in the first innings turned out to be mighty expensive.
The result now sets up a repeat of the 2018 Under-19 World Cup final and more recently, the 2023 ODI World Cup final contested between the India and Australia senior sides. That contest will be at the same venue in Benoni on Sunday, February 11.