India soared to the final of the Under-19 World Cup, for the fifth time, after their dominant 97-run win against Sri Lanka in the first semi-final in Mirpur. India’s top order was tested by Sri Lanka’s pacers on a pitch with a tinge of green, but Anmolpreet Singh and Sarfaraz Khan added 96 together, and from thereon there was no stopping India, as they eventually sealed the victory with 44 balls to spare.
This means that India now have a shot at winning the title for an unprecedented fourth time, as they await either hosts Bangladesh or West Indies who will clash in the second semi-final at the same venue, on February 11.
Chasing 268, Sri Lanka were dealt an early blow when pacer Avesh Khan had Avishka Fernando leg-before in the first over. Kaveen Bandara, the other opener, was soon run-out for four, after a mix-up between the wickets. In the tenth over, Mahipal Lomror moved smartly to his left from mid-on to catch Charith Asalanka’s top edge, reducing Sri Lanka to 42 for 3. This left Kamindu Mendis and Shammu Ashan with a lot to do amid scoreboard pressure.
They batted slowly, sharing 49 in 13.5 overs, before Mendis was snapped up by Washington Sundar at short fine leg off the left-arm spinner Mayank Dagar. Lomror then injured his right ankle while trying to stop a drive, and limped off the field, three balls into his first over. He did not bowl further in the match.
Ashan made 38 before India’s captain Ishan Kishan ran him out, with some sharp piece of fielding from midwicket. Vishad Randika and Wanidu Hasaranga exited in the space of three overs, as Sri Lanka fell to 149 for 7. Dagar then came back and wrapped up the tail, finishing with figures of 3 for 21.
India ran into early trouble of their own when seamers Asitha Fernando and Lahiru Kumara removed Rishabh Pant and Kishan by the tenth over. Both openers struggled against pace and bounce, before edging away-going deliveries in a bid to break free. Both catches were taken by wicketkeeper Randika, though the first one was deemed clean only after several replays.
Sarfaraz and Anmolpreet came together and rode out threatening spells from the pacers, especially Asitha. Sarfaraz and Anmolpreet found their bearings once Sri Lanka introduced their spinners. Sarfaraz struck four fours with cuts, slog sweeps and orthodox sweeps. He even sent Damitha Silva over long-off for a six. Sarfaraz was dismissed when he miscued Asitha to mid-on in the 31st over.
Anmolpreet, who was reprieved on 32 at cover, cashed in, and reached his fifty off 69 balls with a wristy flick through midwicket. Anmolpreet then found good company from Sundar as India took the game away from Sri Lanka. They kept India ticking before Anmolpreet attempted a ramp and was given out caught behind, though replays suggested that it was deflected off the sleeve.
Sundar, too, was caught by Randika, after hitting 43 off 45 balls, including three fours. Lomror and Dagar then produced cameos as India took 49 from the last five overs.