SA players in tears after losing U19 WC semi, India captain Saharan does this… | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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South Africa cricketers in tears after losing U19 World Cup semi, India captain Uday Saharan tries to console

Feb 07, 2024 10:53 AM IST

U19 World Cup: As the Indian cricketers charged inside the ground, screaming, the South Africa cricketers were distraught, some even had tears in their eyes.

It was a familiar sight on the cricket field in Benoni on Tuesday. Indian players dashing onto the field after punching their ticket on yet another ICC U19 World Cup final - a record-extending fifth consecutive time and the 9th one overall and South African cricketers crestfallen, some failing to hold back tears. After a battle of 98.5 overs that swung from one end to another throughout, it was a booming cover drive from Raj Limbani that finished the contest, setting off wild celebrations in the Indian camp and spelling doom for the hosts.

South Africa cricketer in tears after losing U19 World Cup semi-final to India; India captain Uday Saharan hugging SA skipper Juan James
South Africa cricketer in tears after losing U19 World Cup semi-final to India; India captain Uday Saharan hugging SA skipper Juan James

As soon as the ball left Limbani's bat and dissected the cover and the mid-off fielders, the Indian cricketers gathered around the boundary rope. Captain Uday Saharan barricaded the others with outstretched arms. A wait of a couple of seconds for the ball to cross the boundary line seemed like an eternity. But when it did, they charged in led by Saharan screaming his lungs out. Who would believe that he was letting it rip at the man who hit the winning runs a delivery ago for running him out?

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There were the exact opposite scenes in the South African camp. Tristan Luus and Nqobani Mokoena were lying flat. A couple of others had tears in their eyes. Kwena Maphaka, their star of the tournament with the most wickets, was seen making desperate attempts to console his teammates. No matter what age group you are referring to, watching a South African cricket team falter in a knockout match is uneasy and yet quite normal.

Minutes later, Saharan was seen shaking hands and hugging his South African counterpart, Juan James. It was a semi-final for the ages.

After setting a target of 245, South Africa started brilliantly, courtesy of Maphaka's breakthrough on the first ball of the innings. Adarsh Singh found himself helpless against a sharp bouncer, awkwardly prodding it to the keeper.

The short ball proved to be India's downfall once more as Tristan Luus' accurately-directed bouncer outsmarted the dangerous Musheer Khan, sparking massive celebrations in the South African camp following the dismissal of the leading run-scorer in the tournament.

India had to be patient, waiting until the seventh over for their first boundary, which came in the form of a maximum from Arshin Kulkarni off Maphaka. Unfortunately, that solitary moment of joy for India was short-lived, as their difficulties continued to mount with Arshin falling victim to Luus in the final over of the Powerplay.

India's situation worsened when Moliya, who had managed to strike a boundary off the first ball of Luus' over, departed while attempting a loose drive.

A record stand from 32/4

Facing a daunting situation at 32/4, captain Saharan and Sachin Dhas orchestrated a remarkable rescue mission with an impressive partnership. With runs drying up, the pair mixed caution with aggression to keep the scoreboard ticking.

Particularly targeting the bowling of Riley Norton, Dhas showcased his prowess by striking three boundaries in a single over, reclaiming some control for India. While Saharan held firm at one end, Dhas assumed the role of the aggressor, racing to a half-century off 47 balls to keep the required run rate under 6.

Saharan quickly found his rhythm with a splendid boundary off James, not only marking the 100-run partnership for the fifth wicket but also propelling himself past Musheer Khan to claim the top spot on the tournament run-scoring charts.

The partnership between the two was a masterclass in innings building and chasing, as they milked singles relentlessly while putting the poor deliveries away for boundaries.

The skipper too got in on the act, reaching his fifty off 88 balls with a boundary as India inched closer to victory.

Just as the required run rate got to a run-a-ball, Dhas and Saharan dispatched James for a six and four respectively to calm the nerves in the Indian camp.

But there was another twist as South Africa hit back when Maphaka was reintroduced into the attack. He got the better of Dhas with a well-disguised slower ball, the batter falling agonisingly short of a century on 96.

The wicket brought about a lull in scoring, and the mounting pressure became palpable. Aravelly Avanish displayed nerves of steel by striking a crucial boundary off Norton on the final ball of the 46th over.

Maphaka bowled the 47th over and made a big difference off the last ball of the spell with the wicket of Avanish, with Norton taking a good catch in the deep. Two balls later, the game turned on its head again when Abhishek Murugan fell victim to poor running, being caught short of his crease by a direct hit from Marais.

The two wickets put the pressure back on India but a six from an unlikely source – Raj Limbani – shifted the equation, bringing it down to nine runs required off the last two overs.

Saharan put to rest any hopes of a South African comeback with four off the first ball of the penultimate over. In another twist to the game, Saharan was run out trying to scramble for the winning run.

However, Limbani came in clutch again and struck a four off the final ball of the over to continue their unbeaten run and book their berth in the final.

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