Abhishek Sharma

Abhishek Sharma (4 for 39) played his part in derailing Sri Lanka by restricting them to 239 in 48.4 overs. © Rajkumar Sharma

India Under-19 successfully defended the Under-19 Asia Cup title after securing a 34-run win over Sri Lanka Under-19 in the final in Colombo on Friday (December 23).

Making first use of the pitch at R Premadasa Stadium, India rode on steady half-centuries from Himanshu Rana and Shubnam Gill, and a lower-order cameo from K Nagarkoti, to post 273 for 8 in their 50 overs. The spin duo of Abhishek Sharma (4 for 39), the captain, and Rahul Chahar (3 for 22) then played their part in derailing Sri Lanka by restricting them to 239 in 48.4 overs.

Abhishek was named the Man of the Match for his showing, while Rana was the Man of the Series.

Defending 273, Yash Thakur made an early breakthrough when Vishva Chathuranga, the opener, pulled a short one straight to Shubhman at midwicket. Reven Kelly (62 off 101 balls) and Hasitha Boyagoda (37 off 38 balls) then added 78 runs for the second wicket to stabilise the innings. That the duo was helped along was evidenced by the number of misfields and Kelly benefitting from a drop by Chahar at point.

Although, Boyagoda fell to Abhishek in the 19th over, Kelly continued unperturbed in the company of Kamindu Mendis, the Sri Lanka captain. Kelly brought up his first half-century of the tournament off 85 balls, and added 53 runs with Mendis before miscuing a sweep off Abhishek to Nagarkoti at midwicket.

India fought their way back into the contest with a couple of quick wickets, but with Mendis (53 off 57 balls) still going strong, Sri Lanka would have harboured hopes of scaling the target. But Abhishek sent back his opposite number to trigger a dramatic collapse that the home team failed to recover from.

Sri Lanka slipped from 211 for 6 to 239 all out, with Chahar, the legspinner, and Abhishek firing in tandem to prise out the last four scalps for just 28 runs.

Earlier, Prithvi Shaw and Rana, the India openers, put on 67 for the first wicket at almost a run-a-ball. Shaw, the more aggressive of the duo, struck six fours in his 35-ball 39 before top-edging a Praveen Jayawickrama delivery to the deep.

But Rana, who scored a match-winning century in the semifinal, and Gill ensured India didn’t lose momentum as the duo associated for an 88-run second-wicket stand. Not taking too many chances, Rana and Gill took India past the 100-run mark in the 17th over.

Rana brought up his second fifty of the tournament off 58 balls, and hit the first six of the Indian innings in the 25th over, dispatching a Hareen Weerasingha delivery over deep midwicket. Rana looked set for a long stay, but Jayawickrama struck again with a slower delivery that crashed into middle stump.

Smartly rotating the strike without letting pressure build on, Gill brought up his third fifty of the tournament off 67 balls. Looking to set the foundation for the final ten overs, Gill, joined by Abhishek, put on a sedate 48-run third-wicket partnership in 11.4 overs. But after a few hits towards the fence, Sharma (29 off 44 balls) fell to Nipun Ransika, the right-arm pacer, while trying to accelerate.

Gill’s patient stay at the crease was ended by Jayawickrama, who eventually ended with 3 for 53 in ten overs. But it was Ransika’s twin strikes and a run out in the 47th over, that ended India’s hopes of a late surge.

Salman Khan, who walked in next, kept the scoreboard moving at a brisk pace, stepping out to Ransika and Jayawickrama, off whom he hit a couple of fours and a six respectively. But Ransika ended Salman’s enterprising innings when the right-hand batsman holed out to Mendis in the cover region. Het Patel was run out for a duck in the next delivery and Ransika ended the over with Priyam Garg’s wicket to finish with 3 for 50.

A quickfire 14-ball 23 by Nagarkoti lifted India to their competitive total, one that eventually proved to be enough.