x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Australia cruise past West Indies en route to Under 19 World Cup semi-finals

Nicolas Pooran's partnership of 136 for the ninth wicket with Jerome Jones (who contributed only 20) was an Under 19 record as Australia beat West Indies by five wickets, writes Osman Samiuddin.

Nicolas Pooran scored a brilliant century, albeit in a losing effort, against Australia on Sunday. Satish Kumar / The National
Nicolas Pooran scored a brilliant century, albeit in a losing effort, against Australia on Sunday. Satish Kumar / The National

Australia overcame one of the great innings at Under 19 level to force their way through to the semi-finals of the Under 19 World Cup. In the end they beat West Indies comfortably enough by five wickets and will now face South Africa in the second semi-final.

At first glance, on paper, the West Indian total of 208 looked wholly unremarkable as well as inadequate. But it was built on the back of a remarkable hundred from the slight figure of Nicolas Pooran, who’s 143 was the kind of defiant, lone-man-standing innings difficult to replicate at any level of the game, in any part of the world.

Here are some numbers to make sense of it. Pooran made 68.75% of the entire total by himself; as comparison to senior level, the highest percentage of runs made by one batsman in an ODI total is Viv Richards’ unbeaten 189 (out of 272, which is 69.49%).

His partnership of 136 for the ninth wicket with Jerome Jones (who contributed only 20) was an U19 record. He hit 14 of his side’s 17 fours and all six of their maximums.

Yet even those numbers capture very little of the magnificence of his innings. He was already looking in particularly crisp form by the time his side had disintegrated around him. When Bryan Charles fell halfway through the 27th over, Pooran was on 35 and the West Indies 70 for eight.

With Jones proving a doughty ally, however, Pooran began plotting a recovery. At first he farmed strike, and did so expertly, regularly striking a boundary early in the over, playing out the next few deliveries before stealing the strike off the last ball.

At that point it was easy - if fanciful - for the mind to wander to another last-ditch Caribbean epic, also against Australia: Brian Lara’s unforgettable, unbeaten 153 in Barbados to steal a one-wicket Test win. More than anything it was in the flourish of Pooran’s shots, the unhindered backswing and subsequent follow-through of bat that brought Lara to mind.

One straight, towering six off Guy Walker stood out, a small victory graced by a holding of the pose subsequently. But there were some rasping cuts and drives as well, besides the kind of confident flicks off the thighs and hips that brought up his century.

The more stable Jones became, the more Pooran opened up. He paced it perfectly as well, taking 70 runs in the last ten overs. In the penultimate over of the innings, from Thomas Andrews, Pooran heaved three sixes over the midwicket region.

Sadly for him and his side, that partnership was the only period where Australia looked unduly flustered. On Saturday morning at the same venue, Matthew Fisher had exploited early morning conditions to produce a burst of genuinely English fast bowling to defeat India.

On Sunday, in less helpful conditions, Walker and Billy Stanlake produced a typically Australian spell of fast bowling to knock over the West Indies top order. There was not as much swing on display - though Stanlake’s dismissal of Shimron Hetmyer did duck in sharply - but more the kind of muscular pace and seam movement expected of Australian fast bowlers.

Walker took two in two balls, including the in-form Tagenarine Chanderpaul, and Stanlake and James Bazley chipped in so that halfway through, the West Indies should not have just been down but out also.

Then, after Pooran’s intervention, Jaron Morgan and Matthew Short put on a century opening stand to ensure that a late wobble would be nothing more than minor distractions on the road to victory. Morgan was a belligerent presence, smaller, squatter and infinitely less accomplished opener than Matthew Hayden, but similarly bullying in some of his strokeplay.

Jones and Ray Jordan have impressed through the tournament for the West Indies and the pace duo did so again here, picking up two wickets each. But as with Pooran earlier, it was grand, rather than decisive, defiance.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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