Lincoln (New Zealand), Jan.23 (ANI): Defending champions India lost narrowly to challengers Pakistan in the quarter-final of the under-19 World Cup here today.
Both teams livened up a contest that, at one stage, was in danger of ending in a washout. India eventually lost by just two wickets.
A combination of quality seam bowling from Fayyaz Butt and some enterprising batting by Hammad Azam sealed a thrilling win in the final over in front of a sparse yet boisterous crowd at the Bert Sutcliffe Oval.
Pakistan were favourites when they had bowled out India for 114, but the early shock in their chase, when they lost their first three wickets for 16, immediately sparked comparisons to the World Cup final between the teams in 2006.
Pakistan had emerged victors then, defending a paltry 109, courtesy Anwar Ali, whose prodigious swing toppled an overconfident India.
Sandeep Sharma looked good to return the favour this time with his movement, beating the top-order batsmen consistently before bowling opener Babar Azam with a big in-swinger. The effect rubbed off on his bowling partners, Saurabh Netravalkar and Jaidev Unadkat, who accounted for Ahmed Shehzad and captain Aseem Ghumman by squaring them up.
On a big ground and a slow outfield, boundaries were elusive and Ahsan Ali and Rameez Aziz set about stabilising the creeping run-rate by way of piercing the field.
There were intermittent hits to the fence, including a clean strike over long-on by Aziz, but the preoccupation with singles and twos led to a moment of indecision, which resulted in Ahsan's run out, ending a 55-run stand.
Aziz holed out the next over, swinging the game towards India but bringing the eventual match-winner Hammad to the crease.
India's surge at the close of their innings was a belated one while Pakistan's, despite the frequent loss of wickets, was characterised by a couple of timely bursts from Hammad's partners who helped him to the summit.
With 24 needed off 17, Mohammad Waqas smashed Ashok Menaria over midwicket for six and fell the next ball. With 16 needed off 12, Usman Qadir skied Unadkat for a couple and followed that up with a boundary over extra cover to bring the equation down to a run-a-ball, but fell the next delivery.
Amid the swinging fortunes, Hammad held firm, the only symbol of consistency. Hammad finished it off, cutting Sharma through point to crush Indian hopes.
The Indian innings needed a repair job from Mandeep Singh, who stroked 40, and Manan Sharma towards the end, as he struck 16 off 11 to put up a score that almost proved adequate.
But Fayyaz had justified his team's decision to bowl by nipping out the Indian openers in the first over, and returning to end the innings with two more in the end.
The scores at the end of the match were as follows:
Pakistan 117 for 8 (Ahsan 30, Aziz 28, Azam 17*, Unadkat 2-26) beat India 114 for 9 (Mandeep 40, Fayyaz 4-27) by two wickets. (ANI)