Shubman Gill was the only shining light for Punjab in a wretched batting display in the Ranji Trophy fixture against Bengal in Amritsar a couple of months ago. It was the youngster’s first-class debut and he scored 63 and 21 respectively in the two innings as an opener.
Punjab suffered an innings defeat but a few Bengal players were impressed with Gill — the time he had to play his shots. In his next Ranji Trophy match, against Services, Gill hit his maiden first-class hundred (129).
Gill bats at No. 3 for the India U-19 team that has Prithvi Shaw and Manjot Kalra as regular openers. He played a lovely knock of 63, batting one drop, in India’s tournament opener against Australia.
And on Friday, against Zimbabwe, as the three-time Youth World Cup champions tried different combinations, Gill lit up the Bay Oval with a classy 90 not out off just 59 balls, opening the innings. India had already qualified for the quarterfinals so the Zimbabwe game presented a perfect opportunity to experiment. Coach Rahul Dravid would be pleased with the batting and bowling depths on offer. The 10-wicket win also saw India finish Group B toppers.
Zimbabwe won the toss and batted first on a pitch that looked batting-friendly. But the Indian bowlers combined well to bundle the minnows out for 154. Left-arm spinner Anukul Roy topped the bowling charts with 4/20, on the heels of his five-for against Papua New Guinea. Then, Gill, along with another makeshift opener, Harvik Desai, took India to the victory target of 155 in 21.4 overs without losing a wicket. Desai dropped the anchor, remaining unbeaten on 56.
Gill batted like having a fun game in the park. His first four was glorious – a forcing shot off the back foot, standing on his toes, to the cover point boundary. During one Liam Roche over, the 18-year-old displayed his range. The first ball was tossed up and had been driven past extra cover. Then, Gill swept the off-spinner to the fine leg boundary followed by a gorgeous straight drive on the final ball of the over. Gill’s six off Nkosilathi Nungu, over deep mid-wicket, showcased his power. He romped to a 36-ball half-century.
Bowlers make short work
Earlier, two left-arm spinners, Roy and Abhishek Sharma combined well to make short work of the Zimbabwe U-19 batting. The former bowled flatter and straight. He beat Milton Shumba with a delivery that skidded off the surface, with Desai doing the stumping. Two balls later, Roy’s armer caught Robert Chimhinya plumb in front, as the batsman tried to play across the line. Another faster delivery in his next over breached a well-set Roche’s defence and clattered the stumps. Roy’s fourth scalp was tailender Nungu; once again clean bowled.
Sharma, on the other hand, gave the ball more air. A tossed up delivery tempted Alistair Frost for a shimmy down the wicket, which beat the batsman with the turn and the wicketkeeper did the rest. Tinashe Nenhunzi was given out leg before as he tried to reverse sweep another flighted delivery from Sharma. Replays showed the ball touched the glove.
From India’s point of view, leg-spinner Riyan Parag’s five-over spell was a bonus; the way he kept things tight and also took a wicket. Parag now gives the team management an extra option. But maybe, India missed a trick by not playing another leggie, Pankaj Yadav. With the buzz being about pacers, the spinners have quietly done their job, adding to the team’s bowling riches. As for fast bowling, Kamlesh Nagarkoti had an off day – erratic and a bit out of rhythm. Shivam Mavi, however, was pretty consistent. Third seamer Arshdeep Singh has performed well in Ishan Porel’s absence. Today he returned with 2/10 from seven overs.
A six-day break before the Super League now gives India an opportunity to sort out the injury problems. Porel is nursing a bruised heel and although Aditya Thakare has been sent as cover, the Bengal medium pacer would like to be fit for the business end of the tournament. “It’s a really good start for us in this tournament. We always talk about we should learn to win the games, every game is important for us, even if we are playing a weaker game, we have to play to our standards.
“In every game we have shown intensity and attitude. We carry the same intensity, that’s why we are winning. As for our team, we have not decided on a first eleven as of now but we have enough options,” Shaw said after the match.
Australia, Pakistan through
Australia and Pakistan secured their spots in the quarterfinals of the U-19 World Cup with wins over Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka respectively. Australia thumped Papua New Guinea by 311 runs as the former champions progressed to the Super League quarterfinals. Also joining them were former champions Pakistan who defeated Sri Lanka by three wickets in a Group D match. Pakistan will now wait for the outcome of the Afghanistan versus Ireland match on Saturday in Whangarei to find out if they will top the group or finish runners-up.
The three sides have now joined Afghanistan, England, New Zealand and South Africa, while the England and Canada match on Saturday will decide if Bangladesh also goes through to the Super League quarterfinals, which will start on Monday.
Group B: (In Christchurch): Australia 370/8 in 50 overs (Nathan McSweeney 156, Jason Sangha 88, Param Uppal 61; James Tau 2/42) bt PNG 59 all out in 24.5 overs (Jason Ralston 7/15) by 311 runs
(In Tauranga): Zimbabwe 154 all out in 48.1 overs (Milton Shumba 36, Liam Roche 31; Anjukul Roy 4/20, Arshdeep Singh 2/10, Abhishek Sharma 2/22) lost to India 155/0 in 21.4 overs (Shubman Gill 90 not out, Aveet Desai 56 not out) by 10 wickets
Group D: (In Whangarei): Sri Lanka 188 all out in 48.2 overs (Jehan Daniel 53, Ashen Bandara 37; Suleman Shafqat 3-29, Shaheen Afridi 2-41) lost to Pakistan 190/7 in 43.3 overs (Ali Zaryab Asif 59, Mohammad Zaid Alam 28; Thisara Rashmika 3/47) by 3 wickets