Wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant hit 111 off 96 balls as power-packed India demolished Namibia by 197 runs in Fatullah on Saturday to cruise into the semi-finals of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup.
All-rounder Anmolpreet Singh scored 41 and took three for 27 in his first appearance in the tournament as India piled up 349 for six after electing to bat, and then bowled the African side out for 152 in 39 overs.
Three-time champion India, coached by batting great Rahul Dravid, will take on the winner of Sunday’s quarter-final between strong contenders England and Sri Lanka in the first semi-final in Mirpur on February 9.
The second semi-final between host Bangladesh and the winner between Pakistan and the West Indies on Monday will be played in Mirpur on February 11.
Dravid said his team had started to play almost perfect cricket. “I think we have played some good cricket right through the tournament. At some stages, I still feel we have not played a perfect game, but this was our best all-round performance.
“We had a few hiccups earlier on in the batting but it is nice to see that we have recovered and we are playing well. We’re playing good cricket, focusing on the processes and not worrying too much about the results and things are going well.”
Dravid said he had reminded his boys not to be over-confident or complacent. “When you come into knock-out stage, you can’t take any team for granted. Namibia put in some very good performances to get here. Before the game started, we spoke about the dangers of being complacent and we wanted to get a win.
“The focus was to win and not about anything else. I am glad that we were able to put on a commanding performance and qualify for the semi-finals.”
Pant, the left-handed opener who had scored the fastest 50 in under-19 internationals off 18 balls against Nepal, smashed 14 boundaries and two sixes during his whirlwind 111.
Pant added 103 for the second wicket with Anmolpreet after captain Ishan Kishan had been caught and bowled by Fritz Coetzee for six in the third over.
That set the stage for an Indian assault with former school-mates Sarfaraz Khan and Armaan Jaffar scoring aggressive half-centuries.
Sarfaraz hit a run-a-ball 76 and Armaan made 64 off 55 balls before a late blitz by Mahipal Lomror lifted India to the mammoth total.
Left-handed Lomror took 24 runs in the final over bowled by Coetzee, which included three sixes, as he returned unbeaten on 41 off 21 balls.
Namibia made an impressive start with openers SJ Loftie-Eaton (22) and Niko Davin (33) putting on 59 for the first wicket by the 10th over.
Skipper Zane Green made 27 to lift Namibia to 80 for one, but the rest of the batting caved in as left-arm spinner Mayank Dagar supported his off-break partner Anmolpreet with three wickets for 25 runs.
“We set a good target with Pant leading the way and then fielded and bowled well today,” said India captain Kishan.
“It was nice to move into the semi-finals with such a good win. Namibia had a good start, but we needed to stay patient and once the first wicket fell, we applied pressure on their batsmen.”
Asked whether India would prefer to face England or the West Indies in the semi-final, Kishan said: “We can fare well against either team. We just need to play to our strengths and do the basics right.”
Namibia coach Rangarirai Manyande, whose side upset defending champion South Africa in the league, rued the inability to grab the opportunities that came their way.
“The Indians batted quite nicely,” said Manyande. “They batted very aggressively and did not give us a chance. Unfortunately, we could not grab our opportunity once we were 80 for one and that put us on the backfoot.
“We need to improve a lot. We were a little bit tired in the field and when the Indian spinners came on, we were unable to capitalize on the good start we got.
“But the boys are hungry for one more win which can help us finish in the top six.”
Images source: ICC