Dubai: Rishabh Pant smashed a whirlwind 78 off 24 balls as India topped Group D after claiming a seven-wicket win over second-placed Nepal in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in Mirpur on Monday. The left-handed opener struck five sixes and nine boundaries, adding 124 for the first wicket with skipper Ishan Kishan (52), as India chased down Nepal’s innings of 169 for eight in the 19th over.
Pant also recorded the fastest half-century in the history of under-19 internationals as he made 50 off just 18 balls. Reflecting on his performance, Pant said he was disappointed to miss-out on a century, admitting that he became nervous as he approached the mark. “It was a good pitch for batting and I was able to go through my shots,” he added.
Indian skipper Kishan was delighted with the comprehensive win and Pant’s spectacular stroke-play. “The way Pant was going for his shots, I was worried I may not get enough runs of my own,” Kishan said. “I am really pleased with the way we won today because it was a low-scoring game which is usually tough to win.”
India’s emphatic victory was set-up by fast bowler Avesh Kumar, who bagged three wickets for 34 runs, while Mayank Dagar and Washington Sundar supported him well with two wickets each. Meanwhile, Nepal’s skipper Raju Rijal expressed his disappointment over his side’s defeat, saying that his team had been taught a lesson on what to expect when playing against superior sides.
“The competition in the quarter-finals will obviously be very tough and today’s match was a good experience for us,” said Rijal. “We need to work harder and try and do our best in the remaining games.”
New Zealand, smarting from two losses against India and Nepal, took third place in Group D after a four-wicket win against Ireland in Fatullah. Rachin Ravindra and skipper Josh Finnie picked up three wickets each as New Zealand bowled out Ireland for 212 and then won in the 41st over after Finn Allen scored 97 and Dale Phillips made 58.
Afghanistan finished third in Group B with a four-wicket win over Canada in Sylhet. Muslim Musa and Shamsurrahman Wali took three wickets each as Afghanistan bowled out Canada for 147 and then rode on Tariq Stanikzai’s 56 to surpass the target in the 25th over.
Afghanistan captain Ihsanullah Janat said his team gained valuable experience playing against teams like Pakistan and Sri Lanka. “This tournament will help the players improve their game. Its been a very good learning experience,” he said. The Rahul Dravid-coached India will now face the second-placed team from Group A – Bangladesh or Namibia – in the Super League quarter-final in Fatullah on 6 February.