New Zealand's heavy-hitters could not prevent a premature exit from cricket's under-19 World Cup a second time as India's disciplined attack compensated for a dramatic batting collapse to advance to Sunday's final with hosts Australia.
Ish Sodhi and Conor Neynens dragged New Zealand from the brink of elimination in Tuesday's quarterfinal against the West Indies but another late over assault was beyond them in Townsville today as India prevailed by nine runs by defending their 209-9 with relative ease.
New Zealand faced an identical scenario - 18 from the final over - but tailenders Jacob Duffy and Matthew Quinn were never equipped to embarrass Sandeep Sharma, who held his nerve at either end of the innings to finish with 2-36 from 10 overs.
New Zealand had to be content with 200-9, a disappointing return after they backed themselves to chase after opting to field first at Tony Ireland Stadium.
Will Young's call looked debatable once Prashant Chopra (52), fellow opener Unmunkt Chand and Baba Aparajith combined for India to reach 132 for one in the 34th over.
However, New Zealand's bowlers, some exceptional fielding and dubious shot selection triggered a gradual collapse which saw India lose their last eight wickets for the addition of only 77 to set New Zealand a reasonable asking rate of 4.2 runs per over.
Pace bowler Quinn (2-36) and left arm spinner Ben Horne (3-28) were the pick of the Kiwi attack.
Unfortunately in a mirror image of their pursuit against the West Indies, New Zealand lost early wickets and never really gained traction despite Robert O'Donnell and Cam Fletcher proving typically sturdy in the middle order.
O'Donnell's patient 29 from 58 balls and Fletcher's maiden half century of the tournament (53 from 89) shored up the innings after three wickets fell for 10 runs but as they occupied the crease the required run-rate spiralled out of reach.
Neynens again provided some necessary impetus with Fletcher as 25 was added from three overs but when he was yorked by pace bowler Ravikant Singh in the 44th for 14 the pressure was squarely on Sodhi.
The Indian-born allrounder smacked 17 of the 18 required in the quarterfinal but when he holed out to mid-wicket for three India sensed the danger had passed.
"I thought we did enough with the ball. If they said 210 at the start of the day I think we would have taken it," said Young, who was again left the rue the concession of key wickets in the top and middle order.
While Sharma completed the containment job, spinners Aparajith (1-29) and Harmeet Singh (2-30) were just as pivotal, chipping away and kept runs at a premium as they shared 20 overs.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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