India relied on spinners Baba Aparajith and Harmeet Singh to pull off a thrilling nine-run victory over New Zealand and cruise into the final of the ICC Under-19 World Cup in Townsville on Thursday.
Defending a modest total of 209, the Indian bowlers maintained consistency throughout as they restricted New Zealand to 200 for 9 in their 50 overs, to set up a title clash against Australia on Sunday.
With New Zealand needing 18 off last over, medium pacer Sandeep Sharma kept his cool, conceding only nine runs, as India made it to summit clash quite comfortably at the Tony Ireland stadium.
Young Tamil Nadu lad Aparajith got his second successive man-of-the-match award for his all-round show, having scored 44 before taking the important wicket of Robert O'Donell.
This is the India under-19 team's fourth appearance in the final of the tournament, having won the 2000 and 2008 editions, and emerging runners-up in 2006.
A target of 210 was never a tall-order for the Black Caps, but all-rounder Aparajith (1-29) and the young sardar from Mumbai Harmeet (2-30) stifled the set New Zealand pair of Cam Fletcher (53) and O'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 also shared three wickets.
The highlight certainly was the Batting Powerplay overs, where the two of them gave away only 14 runs in the five overs.
While New Zealand lost the first four wickets for 63 runs, Carter-O'Donell duo put on 56 runs for the fifth wicket without much fuss. It looked as if New Zealand would cruise along towards victory before the Harmeet-Aparajith combine applied brakes on scoring.
Back to-back maidens in the 34th and 35th overs suddenly increased the pressure on the Kiwis.
As the pressure mounted, O'Donell closed the face of his bat to an off-break from Aparajith to offer a simple return catch as India made decisive inroads.
P Chopra c Young b Nuttall 52
U Chand b Neynens 31
B Aparajith c Young b Sodhi 44
G Vihari c Carter b Horne 22
V Zol c Horne b Duffy 0
A Nath c & b Horne 11
S Patel not out 15
Harmeet Singh c Carter b Horne 6
K Passi c Neynens b Quinn 0
Ravikant Singh b Quinn 0
Sandeep Sharma not out 7
Extras: (LB-6, W-15) 21
Total: (9 wickets; 50 overs) 209
Fall of wickets: 1-51, 2-132, 3-138, 4-139, 5-169, 6-183, 7-198, 8-198, 9-199.
Bowling: J Duffy 8-0-37-1, E Nuttall 8-1-22-1, M Quinn 10-1-36-2, C Neynens 8-0-37-1, I Sodhi 10-0-43-1, B Horne 6-0-28-3.
MSJ Davidson c Ravikant b Passi 6
JF Carter c Nath b Ravikant 30
BJ Horne c Nath b Harmeet 10
WA Young c Aparajith b Harmeet 5
RR O'Donnell c & b Aparajith 29
CD Fletcher b Sandeep 53
C Neynens b Ravikant 14
IS Sodhi c Harmeet b Sandeep 3
JA Duffy not out 21
EJ Nuttall run out 9
MR Quinn not out 2
Extras: (B-2, LB-6, W-10) 18
Total: (9 wickets; 50 overs) 200
Fall of wickets: 1-29, 2-53, 3-55, 4-63, 5-119, 6-155, 7-163, 8-173, 9-192.
Bowling: Sandeep Sharma 10-2-36-2, K Passi 10-0-48-1, Ravikant Singh 10-0-49-2, Harmeet Singh 10-2-30-2, B Aparajith 10-1-29-1.