Pope's 8 for 35 lifts Australia into semi-finals

Cricket


Australia Under-19 127 (Sangha 58, Jacks 3-21, Pennington 3-27, Bamber 3-31) beat England U-19 96 (Banton 58, Pope 8-35) by 31 runs

In what was the match of the tournament thus far, Australia defended 128 in style in Queenstown to progress to the semi-finals of the Under-19 World Cup, leaving England shellshocked in the process. England had bowled out Australia cheaply and were cruising at 47 for 0 before Lloyd Pope‘s legbreaks dismantled England to 96 all out.

On an afternoon when both sides ensured the fall of wickets outpaced the quota of morning and afternoon arrivals at the neighboring airstrip to Jon Davies Oval, Pope’s top-quality bowling ripped open the game for Australia.

His 8 for 35 nailed England’s batsmen in an unbroken spell that drew batsmen out and had them driving and defending from the rough. Even better was captain Jason Sangha‘s swift reflexes and catching at slip that accounted for the big wicket of opener Tom Banton after he had raced to a 53-ball 58, eating away more than a third of the target before the lunch break.

Banton’s attempt at a cheeky reverse sweep resulted in him gloving the ball to Sangha, who initially flinched to his left, only to quickly change tack and dive right to complete an outstanding one-handed catch. This left England wobbly, but still in control at 71 for 4. In his next over, Pope once again beautifully induced Finlay Trenouth into the drive, only to have him nicking to Sangha again. Standing a touch wide, the Australia captain rose with the bounce and leapt high to complete another stunning catch as Australia went into the lunch interval a boisterous lot. At 79 for 5, England were under pressure to suddenly make a match of this.

The break couldn’t have come at a better time for England. For a number of fans and parents of players from both sides who flew in to watch their boys play, the 40 minutes that followed were nerve-wracking. For England coach Jonathan Trott, boisterous and chirpy as he walked around the ground while his boys dismantled Australia in the field, this was an even bigger challenge: to calm his boys and reassure them the remaining 49 runs they had left to knock off after lunch was going to be possible, even if it meant a struggle.

Instead, England came out after the interval committing harakiri. When a tight defence and calm heads were the need of the hour, they panicked. No. 5 Euan Woods shaped to cut a full delivery, only to chop on. Tom Scriven was stranded halfway down the pitch searching for a non-existent single as Jonathan Merlo swooped in to effect a direct hit at the bowler’s end.

Luke Hollman was caught behind looking to play an expansive drive. Ethan Bamber was out lbw playing back to a skiddy delivery. When Dillon Pennington chopped on, Pope was ecstatic, roared in delight and then wiped tears of joy. He had just picked up the best figures in the tournament’s history.

This stunning turn of events was possible despite Australia being far from their best with the bat. After electing to bat, they came out with an ultra-aggressive approach, but the ploy backfired against two skillful fast bowlers: Pennington and Bamber, who got the ball to move both ways at a lively pace.

Pennington had Jack Edwards, touted as one of Australia’s best batsman in this age group, falling over with an inducker that trapped him lbw in the second over. In his next over, Pennington had Max Bryant, backed to continue as opener despite Nathan McSweeney’s 156 against Papua New Guinea, caught behind when he slashed at a delivery that didn’t have much width. Bamber got into the act seven balls later when he got one to nip back in from length to beat Merlo’s inside edge and crash into middle and leg.

Australia were in trouble at 27 for 3, in dire need of stability. But it wasn’t coming. Param Uppal was caught driving on the up off Pennington to second slip. Trenouth moved instinctively to his left and nearly saw the ball fly past him but plucked a one-handed stunner to make that 27 for 4.

Sangha took it upon himself to ride the wobble and steer his team out of a hole. Cautious against the faster bowlers to begin with, he opened up against spin, showing excellent feet movement both forward and back. He showed the virtues of his back-foot game in playing the cut effectively to construct a superb half-century even as his partners kept letting him down at the other end.

No. 9 Zack Evans gave him excellent support, batting out 26 deliveries to make 12. His tactful farming of strike and dead-bat defence gave Sangha the confidence to try and play his shots even as England brought the fields in to attack.

In an attempt to hit out, Sangha chipped one back to Will Jacks to become the ninth wicket to fall. Ultimately, in hindsight, those runs proved to be the difference, perhaps more valuable than any century he would have made in Under-19 cricket so far, and set the stage for Pope to deliver a miracle spell to put them into the semi-finals.



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