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India Under-19’s dream run in the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2016 continued as they outclassed an ambitious but relatively less competent Namibia Under-19 by a colossal margin of 197 runs in the second Quarter Final at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah on Saturday.

On the one hand, when a majority of the public were glued to their television sets to witness the proceedings at the IPL Players’ Auction live from ITC Gardenia in Bangalore, the Indian Future Stars went about their business in usual fashion, unperturbed by the unceasing strikes of auctioneer Richard Madlee’s hammer.

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India U-19 team will play the winner of the Pakistan U-19 v/s Sri Lanka U-19 game in the first Semis at Mirpur on Feb 9

Having won the toss, Indian skipper Ishan Kishan elected to bat first in pursuit of putting up a mammoth score on the board. However, he couldn’t manage to make optimum use of the placid track in offer and was sent back to the pavilion for 6 runs in the third over.

Kishan’s opening partner Rishabh Pant who has been in scintillating form in this edition of the tournament, exhibited his sheer aptitude for runs yet again as he caressed 14 fours and 2 sixes en route to 111 off 96 balls; his maiden U-19 World Cup and second international ton overall. The left handed wicket-keeper batsman from Delhi who has already made a name for himself owing to his ability to whack the ball then went on to stitch partnerships with Anmolpreet Singh and Sarfraz Khan which opened the vents for a brutal middle order onslaught. First, he along with Anmolpreet Singh consolidated the Indian innings and rescued the team from a rather wobbly situation by adding 103 runs for the second wicket and followed it up by recording a 62 run partnership with Sarfaraz Khan post Anmolpreet’s dismissal.

He eventually fell for the score of Nelson in the 29th over but not before placing India in a commanding position which only seemed to strengthen their vice-like grip on the game as the overs progressed. The baton of piling up runs at a brisk rate was then passed on to Sarfaraz Khan, who struck a gritty 76 and ran riot against the hapless Namibian bowlers. Contributions from Armaan Jaffer (64) and Mahipal Lomror (41*) lower down the order enabled India to go past the 340 run-mark and finish on 349/6 at the end of their allotted 50 overs.

The scoreboard pressure naturally got to the Namibian youngsters as they began their reply with a hint of perception aided by ample mindfulness. That said, they did reasonably well to bring up 59 runs in the first 10 overs- thanks to the efforts of openers Niko Davin and SJ Loftie-Eaton. Unfortunately, their intent to wage a sturdy response was cut short by Washington Sundar as he sent Davin back to the hut in the 10th over of the Namibian innings. The rest of the batting order fell like a pack of cards and were bundled out for a mere tally of 152 with Loftie-Eaton (22), Davin (33) and Jurgen Linde (25) being the only set of batsmen to reach double figures. Left arm spinner Mayank Dagar starred with the ball as he finished with figures of 3/25 and Anmolpreet Singh followed his effusive batting display with a valiant 3 wicket haul (3/27). Washington Sundar (2/27) too scalped a couple of wickets.

Rishabh Pant was adjudged the ‘Man of the Match’ for his match winning century which was his second successive ‘Man of the Match’ award. Pant, who models himself on legendary Australian wicket keeper batsman Adam Gilchrist, is also an ardent admirer of Sourav Ganguly and aspires to open the batting for the senior team in the near future. While he was busy sweating it out under the sun in Bangladesh, the southpaw was grabbed by his city  based franchise Delhi Daredevils for a whopping sum of Rs. 190 lacs at the IPL Players’ Auction in Bangalore. Pant got his name etched on the record books on Tuesday when he scripted history by scoring the fastest ever half century in the Under-19 World Cup; that when he smashed a volatile 24-ball 78 against Nepal Under-19 in their previous outing. Before taking to the field for the all-important Quarter-Final clash against Namibia, he was honest enough to admit that thoughts about the auction had crossed his mind. ‘’It’s always on the mind, but it wasn’t during the match. I don’t know anyone in the IPL. Koi bhi franchise ho chalega (I will deliver my best regardless of whichever team clinches me’’, was Pant’s reply when asked about the eagerly anticipated Players’ Auction. As many as eight players from the current crop of Under-19 players had thrown their hats into the ring but none were able to fetch as high a price as the eighteen year old.

This is the seventh time India has made it through to the Semi-Finals of an Under-19 World Cup, out of which they have seized the trophy thrice. The previous six instances are listed as follows.

                YEAR              CAPTAIN
               2000        (Champions)         Mohammed Kaif
               2002       (Semi-Finalists)         Parthiv Patel
               2004       (Semi-Finalists)         Ambati Rayudu
               2006        (Runners-Up)         Piyush Chawla
               2008        (Champions)           Virat Kohli
               2012        (Champions)           Unmukt Chand

India will play the winner of the Pakistan Under-19 v/s Sri Lanka Under-19 game in the first Semi-Final at Mirpur on February 9. Dravid’s colts are just two steps away from getting their hands on the trophy for the fourth time.