/ 2 March 2008

SA fall 12 runs short of the crown

India were on Sunday crowned champions of the ICC U/19 Cricket World Cup in Malaysia after a thrilling conclusion against South Africa in Kuala Lumpur.

Set a revised target of 116 to win from 25 overs after the second innings was reduced because of rain, South Africa needed 26 runs from the remaining two overs but despite the best efforts of captain Wayne Parnell and wicketkeeper Bradley Barnes, the junior Proteas fell 12 runs short.

India bowled and fielded very well in the closing stages and starved the South African batsmen to the point where they had to take undue risks with shots and running. It was a mature performance by coach Dav Whatmore’s boys.

This is India’s second U/19 CWC title and the large crowd that packed into Kinrara Oval was overwhelmingly shouting for the winning side, getting more and more vociferous as the evening progressed.

Dozens of India flags fluttered around the ground in support of the team with the 6 000 fans enjoying the festive atmosphere.

In the end they nearly descended into delirium as a smiling Virat Kohli accepted the cup from ICC president Ray Mali and lifted it above his head as the confetti fell from the stormy KL sky. His side were the most consistent during this tournament and with their talent, application and team spirit there can be no doubt the title was

fully deserved.

But the runner-up must not be forgotten — South Africa contributed hugely to the success of the tournament and helped to make the final so enthralling.

One of the abiding memories of this event will be the fielding of the South Africans. SA Engelbrecht, Rilee Rossouw, Jon-Jon Smuts, wicketkeeper Barnes and others could easily hold their own in the senior side from a fielding perspective and between them must have saved at least 40 or 50 runs in the final.

The brightest star in that particular galaxy is Englebrecht. Coach Ray Jennings reckons he is the best fielder of his age in the world and based on his performances here, it would be difficult to construct a counter-argument.

At cover-point, he is this side’s version of Jonty Rhodes, stopping anything that comes within about a mile of him and on Sunday he clung on to two more spectacular catches to add to his collection and, more importantly, to dismiss top scorer Tanmay Srivastava and captain Virat Kohli.

From behind the stumps Barnes took three smart grabs and also effected the run-out of Saurabh Tiwary as South Africa managed to reduce India to 159 all out in the 46th over. Only Srivastava (46) looked comfortable against the SA attack with Parnell (2-21), Matthew Arnold (2-30), Mohammad Vallie (2-33) and Roy Adams (2-38) all making an impact.

But things did not go South Africa’s way when it was their turn to bat.

Man of the match Ajitesh Argal bowled beautifully first up for India and removed Pieter Malan and Rilee Rossouw with just six runs on the board.

Man of the match from the semifinal, Jon-Jon Smuts, was then run out and SA found themselves at 17-3 when the rain came.

When they resumed, things did not improve for the South Africans as they lost wickets at crucial moments during the chase. That said, Reeza Hendricks (35), Barnes (19) and the impressive Parnell (29) almost got the junior Proteas home but ultimately it was to be India’s day. – Sapa