DUBAI- South Africa finally broke their Under-19 World Cup jinx by beating crowd favorites Pakistan by six wickets in a predominantly one-sided final in Dubai. It had been a bowler's tournament all the way through and the final lived up to that billing as South Africa's bowlers, led by Corbin Bosch, bundled out Pakistan for a paltry 131.
South Africa were made to concentrate in their chase and it was their captain Aiden Markram who soaked up the pressure with an unbeaten fifty to steer his team home. It was fitting that the team that remained unbeaten went on to lift the title, thereby shedding the infamous 'chokers' tag associated with their seniors. This was South Africa's third appearance in the final of the U-19 World Cup and first since 2008. This was also the second ICC tournament title for the South Africans, including their ICC knockout title in Dhaka in 1998.
Captains had been inclined towards batting first in Dubai. But when Markram lost the toss, it wasn't the worst thing for his team. Kagiso Rabada was expected to be the main threat with his pace and bounce, but while he succeeded in asserting control, it was the medium pace of Bosch and Justin Dill who ran through the top and middle order, nipping out more than half the side. The Pakistan batsmen kept the wicketkeeper Clyde Fortuin and the slips busy, pushing and poking at deliveries they would rather have left alone. To South Africa's credit, the bowling was disciplined and the ploy of making the batsmen play had paid off.
Imam-ul-Haq and Sami Aslam were cautious but looked relatively comfortable in the first eight overs, aware that they needed to set themselves up for the long haul.
Dill struck in his first over, getting Aslam to edge to Fortuin. Bosch, very similar to Dill in terms of pace, dented Pakistan further with two wickets in an over. Saud Shakeel chased a wide ball and edged to slip, before Kamran Ghulam pushed at one that moved away, edging to Fortuin. The second wicket was a credit to Bosch for his probing line.
Hasan Raza punched Dill past mid-off and cover for a boundary but the bowler struck again the next ball when Raza nicked a short of a length ball to Fortuin. Bosch picked up another when Saifullah Khan half-heartedly pushed at one and edged to Fortuin, leaving Pakistan limping at 60 for 6. Dill and Bosch bowled 14 overs in tandem in a spell, conceded 26 runs and picked up five wickets.
It was down to the firm of Zafar Gohar and Amad Butt to bail Pakistan out of trouble again, after they did so successfully against England in the semi-final. Gohar wasn't afraid to go over the top off the seamers, as Pakistan looked to make the most of the batting Powerplay. Sigwili broke the stand of 45 before Bosch rounded off the innings with an in-swinging yorker to Zia-ul-Haq.
The Pakistan bowlers managed to keep the top order under check for the first 12 overs at least, when they picked up two wickets. The seamers didn't give much in terms of width and bowled shorter lengths. Clyde Fortuin saw a short ball and looked to pull but the ball stopped on him and lobbed to short cover. South Africa gambled by dropping a batsman, Kirwin Christoffels, for an extra seamer and as a result Jason Smith got a promotion. He didn't look comfortable against spin and came forward to the legspinner Karamat Ali, but failed to read the googly.
Pakistan captain Sami Aslam packed eight men inside the ring, including a slip and s short leg for the left-arm spinner Zafar Gohar. Gohar kept it tight, bowling a stump to stump line. Markram broke a boundary drought that lasted 57 balls when he drove Karamat down to long-on and the following over, Oldfield cut Gohar wide of backward point.
Following those boundaries, South Africa built slowly but steadily. However, there were easy singles on offer with the fielder standing on the edge of the 30 yard circle and there were gaps on the on side too. Pakistan had a half-chance of sending back Markram on 29 when he lofted one to deep cover, but the fielder wasn't quick enough to get to it. The ball dropped short and rolled to the rope.
As the required runs dropped below fifty, a few Pakistan spectators made their way out. With 33 needed, Oldfield looked to cut Karamat but edged to the keeper and soon after, Yaseen Valli misjudged the line and shouldered arms to Zia-ul-Haq. The celebrations weren't very animated because it was Markram's wicket they needed. He brought up his fifty with an exquisite cover drive and ensured he finished the job. Bradley Dial hit the winning runs with a punched boundary down the ground.