Order and Choas.
At the risk of sounding reductive, those two words define India and Pakistan’s campaigns in the Under-19 World Cup. India have been an automaton; unbeaten and unchallenged in the tournament. Pakistan opened their tournament with a loss to Afghanistan. Then they dismantled Ireland, and scratched three-wicket wins against Sri Lanka and South Africa.
In the semi-final, the two innings ran along the same themes. When India batted, there was a clear logic on display. They took singles — some of them risky — off the good balls. They threw their bats at width. They respected the in-form bowler. The batting could have been a flowchart, with decision boxes covering all eventualities: If not openers, No 3 to play anchor role. If middle order departs early, all-rounders to contribute. It might well have been one of Dravid’s well-planned match simulations, with steps clearly listed on a whiteboard. Pakistan provided the disorder; they dropped four catches in the field. Then in the second innings, they were bowled out for 69.
Clarity and collapses, the two innings could not have been more different. But there was a point, at the mid-point of the match, where chaos leaked into India. Till the last over of India’s innings, everything was going to script: India would get their 270+ score, and Shubman Gill would get a hundred with three balls to spare.
Then, Pakistan struck. Chaos struck.
Ball one, Shivam Mavi swats Muhammed Musa straight to midwicket. Gill, on 98, can only watch from the other end.
Ball two, Shiva Singh squirts one suicidal run, hoping to get Gill on strike. Saved by yet another wayward throw from Pakistan.
Ball three, and this is where Gill is finally touched by the chaos. Having played a chanceless innings to get to 98, he goes for the big shot. The top edge goes straight up. Extra cover should catch it, the bowler should catch it, but in the end no one does. Gill is on 99. The moment is Pakistan in a bottle. But in the next three balls they put that bottle on a skyscraper.
Ball four, and Musa zeroes in on the left boot with a yorker. Shiva Singh is departed, Gill is stranded. Two balls to go. He’s on 99. He doesn’t care. India is on 267 and he wants the strike. He wants more.
Ball five, and one wicket left. Ishan Porel taps and runs, and should have been run out, but then so should so many others. One ball to go. India 268. Gill 99.
Ball six, and you already know what Gill is going to do. He will go for the big shot – hundred be damned — because that’s what he tried to do two balls ago. Logic dictates that he gets six, or gets out. But chaos has taken hold now, so something else entirely happens.
He lofts to long off, it’s a good shot, but not good enough. Pakistan captain Hassan Khan should gobble it, but then he spills it. It doesn’t matter, it’s a no ball, and Gill roars as he realises he has his hundred, and another ball to hit. He couldn’t have written it better if he tried. He was following the formula. Only here, only at this point where order touches chaos, the ceiling touches the floor, can something so crazy happen. Gill gets the 100, India get 270+, the result follows order, but in the most chaotic way possible.
Until then, Gill had paced his innings like it was charted out by Google maps. His ran under a run a ball for most of the innings, turning the strike rate around in the end. He hit 42 of the 75 runs India scored in the last 10 overs, and all this with only a handful of aerial shots. Later, considering the context of the match, he put this down as one of his best innings.
“This hundred is really special. There was pressure and nerves going into this match because it was against Pakistan. I didn’t think much, wanted to play according to the merit of the ball.
Pakistan provided the disorder in the field: some committed efforts, but as many as five dropped catches or run outs missed in the first 15 overs. When they batted, they had no answers to India’s bowlers. Porel claimed four of the top five, then India sat back, bowled good areas, and waited for the mistakes. Every chance offered was taken, running back, diving, it didn’t matter. It was the Indian machine in the field, processing a shapeless lump of a batting effort. True to the motto of the Under-19 World Cup, no Pakistani batter crossed 18 runs.
India move to Tauranga for a record sixth final. Pakistan will finish their tournament the way they started it: playing Afghanistan for third place. Perhaps order has found them after all.
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