Calcutta: India relied on spinners Baba Aparajith and Harmeet Singh to pull off a thrilling 9-run victory over New Zealand and cruise into the final of the U-19 World Cup on Thursday.
Defending a modest total of 209, Indian bowlers maintained their consistency throughout as they restricted New Zealand to 200 for nine in their 50 overs to set up a title clash against Australia on Sunday.
Needing 18 off last over, medium pacer Sandeep Sharma kept his cool and gave away only nine runs as India made it to summit clash quite comfortably in the end.
Young Tamil Nadu lad Aparajith got his second successive Man of the Match award for his all-round show as he scored 44 before taking the important wicket of Robert 'Donell. This is India U-19 team's fourth appearance in the final of the tournament having won the 2000 and 2008 editions.
A target of 210 was never a tall-order for the New Zealand colts but all-rounder Aparajith (1/29) and Harmeet (2/30) stifled the set New Zealand pair of Cam Fletcher (53) and 'Donell (29) in the middle overs to set it up for the Indians.
The duo gave away only 59 runs in the 20 overs between them and shared three wickets. The highlight certainly were the Batting Powerplay overs where two of them gave away only 14 runs in the five overs.
While New Zealand lost the first four wickets for 63 runs, Carter-'Donell duo put on 56 runs for the fifth wicket without much fuss. It looked as if New Zealand were cruising along towards victory before Harmeet-Aparajith applied brakes on scoring. Back-to-back maidens in the 34th and 35th overs suddenly increased the pressure on the Black Caps.
As the pressure mounted, 'Donell closed the face of his bat to an off-break from Aparajith to offer a simple return catch as India made decisive inroads.
Indian bowlers have done a good job in the tournament and even on Thursday, the pace trio of Sandeep Sharma (2/36), Kamal Passi (1/48) and Ravikant Singh (2/49) complemented the effort of their spinners.
The trio bowled well within themselves with Ravikant again producing an inspirational delivery. Connor Neynes (14) was yorked by the young Bengal pacer which certainly was the best delivery of the match.