With an astonishing burst of fast-bowling, Pakistan retained the ICC U-19 World Cup. They won by 38 runs, defending just 109.

Fulfilling the truism that ‘attack is the best form of defence’, Pakistan’s pace bowlers grabbed hold of the match in an astonishing 3-over burst at the start of the Indian innings, which had India reeling at 9-6.

India had earlier bowled out Pakistan for 109 with a superb display of bowling themselves. Spin had been brought on as early as the fifth over and was rewarded immediately with a wicket as Ravindra Jadeja had left-hander Nasir Jamshed out for 18 (18 deliveries, 3 fours, one earlier chance). Three deliveries later Mohammed Ibrahim fell leg –before to Jadeja.

India then proceeded to deploy their game-plan to maximum advantage as, on a hard, grippy wicket, the spinners always did enough with the ball to trouble the batsmen whenever they tried to do anything but defend the ball with the middle of the bat.

But then, contemporary Pakistan youth likes playing its shots and is always a little more uncertain in defence than in attack. Against a mature spinner like India’s Piyush Chawla batting will always be difficult and when he took two wickets in his opening over, Pakistan were 49-5 with 36 overs remaining to bat out.

With googlies and leg-breaks, in three different spells Chawla bowled 8.1 overs for just eight runs four wickets. Working in tandem with Jadeja and off-spinners Bipinbhai and Sharma who took five of the other wickets, India’s spinners had Pakistan’s batsmen in all sorts of trouble.

In retrospect, a 29-run partnership between Pakistan’s feisty captain Sarfaraz Ahmed and Rameez Raja was critical. The partnership took thirteen overs and there were only twenty scoring shots but the pressure eased somewhat to the extent that Sarfaraz could venture down the crease to Bipinbhai. Of course, it proved fatal – he was stumped.

India eventually dismissed Pakistan for just 109 at the start of the 42nd over and given the strength of their batting could have been expected to win with some room to spare.

Some play past reputations, others play on future assumptions – winners focus on the present.

Back in the dressing-room, Pakistan’s coach Mansoor Rana attempted to rally his disheartened men, "One guy was averaging over 100 but the law of averages said they were due to fail and that's what I told the lads. I said that if we could grab a few early then swing the ball under the lights we could defend the total."

Fired up like Imran Khan’s “cornered tigers” of the 1992 World Cup that is just what Pakistan’s new-ball bowlers did. It’s a game of split-second reactions and fine, fine margins. To the first-ball of the Indian innings, Gaurav Dhiman, the Virender Sehwag of the U-19 team, someone who could single-handedly have taken India past 109 at blistering speed, attempted a cut off left-armer Jamshed Ahmed, was just a touch late and played the ball on to his stumps.

The perfect start for Pakistan.

Anwer Ali Khan,
having taken his third wicket in his first over. ©ICC

In Anwer Ali Khan’s first over, the match was put firmly back in the hands of Pakistan. Swinging the ball in hugely from outside off-stump he had Cheteshwar Pujara out lbw, two balls later Rohit Sharma was bowled by a vicious breakback which clipped the top off-stump and then two balls on, Mayank Tehlan got an inside-edge to a delivery which was zagging into the stumps.

It was awesome bowling which would have challenged the best in the world.

4-8 became 5-8 when India’s captain Ravikant Shukla, was beaten by a beauty from Jamshed which pitched on off and straightened considerably to hit off. 5-8 became 6-9 when Debabrata Das was caught and bowled by Anwer Ali.

India had a long time to think about being 6-9 during the interval and came out with a plan based around Piyush Chawla taking control. The factor in their favour was that two-left-handers were at the crease, thus negating a big part of Ali Anwer’s swinging threat and that in reality, the target was very small.

Chawla, with three first-class 50s in eight Ranji Trophy matches to his name already looked composed and assured throughout and as long as he was in, India had a chance. Jadeja lived dangerously but was gaining in confidence when Ali Anwer found the ideal throat-ball to have him gloving to the wicket-keeper.

From 23-7, India put on 39 in the next nine overs and Pakistan were undoubtedly feeling the pressure more than India now. It had become a match that Pakistan could lose, slip was fallible, outfielders stumbled and wides and no balls were climbing. India were starting to believe.

India were now, more than halfway to their target with Chawla and Pinal Shah (highest first-class score 217*) looking good enough to go even further. Flashes and catches, thrust to thrust – if Anwer and Jamshed don’t get you, Akhtar must. Akhtar Ayub having had Shah dropped with the first ball he bowled, found one to rise sharply off a length in his next over and Shah was gone.

In Akhtar’s next over it was all over. Pakistan had won by 38 runs.

People looking at the match from a distance could think the wicket was poor – it was not. It was hard and true and ideal for bats and bowlers. People could think the batting of the cream of the subcontinent was not up to standard – that was not the case. The bowling was exceptional – the Indian spinners had flight and turn and control and the Pakistani pacemen had bounce and movement at 80-85mph.

In a low-scoring match people sometimes forget it takes just ten deliveries to win. Pakistan bowled more of these wicket-taking deliveries than India.

Victory secured, Pakistan jump for joy.
Akhtar Ayub faces the camera, second from the right. ©ICC

The day after victory, Anwer Ali Khan and Sarfaraz Ahmed with the U-19 World Cup in Colombo's Independence Square.

Both teams had immense desire to win, India had targeted victory at this event for a long time and Pakistan had been conscious of defending their 2004 title all the way through proceedings.

Great cricketers aren’t born, they’re made. And they are made by a desire to be and show off the best they can be. Both of these U-19 teams will produce cricketers who will play on even greater stages and their experiences in this World Cup will have been extremely formative.

Super League Final: India v Pakistan, R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo
Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat
Pakistan: 109 of 41.1 overs (R. Jadeja 3-16, P. Chawla 4-8)
India: 71 off 18.5 overs (A. Khan 5-35, A. Ayub 3-9)
Man of the Match: Anwer Ali Khan (Pakistan)
View Scorecard >>

Filed February 21 2006