The Indian under-19 cricket team’s quest for an unprecedented fourth World Cup title ended unsuccessfully on Sunday as the West Indies out-witted the Rahul Dravid -coached side by five wickets in a tense final to clinch the coveted trophy for the first time.
Put in to bat by the Caribbeans on a green-top amid overcast conditions, the script went completely awry for the Indians, who were dismissed for 145 in 45.1 overs with Sarfaraz Khan’s 89-ball 51 being the only noteworthy contribution.
In reply, the West Indies made heavy weather of the chase in a slow-moving but thrilling match to overhaul the score in 49.3 overs.
The heroes for West Indies were Man of the Match Keacy Carty (52 not out off 125 ball) and Keemo Paul (40 not out off 68 balls), both of whom kept their cool in the high-pressure game to take the side home.
Chasing the modest target, the Caribbeans were not off to the best of starts as both their openers -- Gifron Pope (3) and Tevin Imlach (15) -- were dismissed with just 28 runs on the board.
Skipper Shimron Hetmyer (23) and Carty then put together a 39-run third-wicket stand to steady the ship.
However, left-arm spinner Mayank Dagar gave India the much-needed breakthrough when he got Hetmyer caught at long on by Armaan Jaffer.
Next man in was Shamar Springer (3), the West Indies’ most successful batsman of the tournament with 282 runs prior to Sunday. But the right-hander could not make an impact and struggled for nine deliveries before an attempted slog sweep had him caught by Jaffer, off Dagar again.
While wickets were tumbling around him, Carty kept his cool to plough on even though the scoring rate was painfully slow.
Proceedings livened up when Carty was joined by Paul. The 17-year-old Paul pushed hard for his singles and it was his six off Dagar which broke the shackles for West Indies after a lengthy stretch of dot balls.
The 69-run stand between Carty and Paul made all the difference in the end as the unbeaten Indians finally found their match in the summit clash.
The Indian bowlers led by Dagar (3/25) were saddled with the tough task of defending a paltry total and they did a decent job for most part of the match but eventually it wasn’t enough.
The Indian fielders were also guilty of spilling a few good chances, which could have tilted the match in their team’s favour.
The Ishan Kishan-led Indians were looking to win their first World Cup since 2012.
Earlier, the Indian batsmen faltered when it mattered the most as the three-time champions were bowled out for 145.
The same batsmen, who helped India stay unbeaten earlier in the competition, failed to apply themselves in the big game.
Sarfaraz was the lone exception as he saved India the embarrassment of being bowled out for a sub-100 total with a fifth fifty-plus score in six innings, also making him the only one to score most half centuries (7) in the history of the tournament.
While the Indian batting flattered to deceive, the West Indies bowlers did well to exploit the conditions. Alzarri Joseph (3/39) ran through top order before Ryan John (3/38) landed crucial blows for his team.
Chemar Holder kept things tight to maintain pressure on the Indian batsmen, conceding only 20 runs in 10 overs with a timely wicket of Mahipal Lomror.
India, aiming for an unprecedented fourth title, lost their top three for 27 runs, all falling to Joseph. Rishabh Pant was stumped in an unusual manner with West Indian keeper Tevin Imlach showing presence of mind to fox the Indian opener, who was standing out of his crease while leaving an away going delivery.
Anmolpreet Singh, who scored a gritty fifty in the semifinals, edged a sharp one to the wicket-keeper. And soon after, captain Ishan Kishan was gone too, ending his disappointing run in the tournament where he ended with a solitary fifty in six innings. However, he was out leg before wicket to a ball that appeared to pitch outside the leg-stump.
The fall of Armaan Jaffer made it 50 for five and after that began the innings repair exercise by Sarfaraz and Lomror (19 off 43), who added 37 runs for the sixth wicket.
India badly needed another decent partnership to put up a respectable total but that did not happen as Sarfaraz kept running out of partners until he missed a crossed batted shot to be caught plumb in front, leaving his team at 120 for eight.
His 89-ball effort comprised five fours and a six.
The tail did not contribute much but it was not expected to after an ordinary batting effort earlier in the innings.