Benoni: Thanks to brilliant half-centuries from Sachin Dhaas and captain Uday Saharan, defending champions India defeated South Africa by two wickets in the ICC Under-19 World Cup here on Tuesday to enter the final for the fifth consecutive time.
Dhas (96, 95 balls, 11×4, 1×6) and Saharan (81, 124, 6×4), who were India's guiding force with a century each in the last match against Nepal, added the wicket for the fifth wicket. Scored 171 runs. India achieved the target of 245 runs with only 7 balls remaining.
In the summit clash to be played at this venue on Sunday, India will face either Australia or Pakistan, who are looking for their sixth trophy in the premier competition.
But India had a bad start while chasing the target and four wickets fell for just 32 runs in the 12th over.
South African new ball bowler Kwena Mafaka shocked India by dismissing Adarsh Singh on the very first ball of his innings with a poor climbing ball, leaving the batsman with no option but to edge past wicketkeeper Luan-Dre Pretorius.
His teammate Tristan Luus soon joined the fun with the wickets of Musheer Khan, Arshin Kulkarni and Priyanshu Molia as all three India batsmen were indecisive, hanging their bats out to dry outside the off-stump.
But the Indians found their savior in Dhas and Saharan, who played innings of very contrasting temperament and pace.
Dhes was aggressive despite the position his team was in, but Saharan was happy to keep his end going.
Dhaas's innings was a brilliant example of playing cross-batted shots as he hit a six, scored four runs and also hit the on-side spaces well.
Saharan, on the other hand, was more traditional but absolutely did not hesitate to deliver excellent drives or rasping cuts whenever there was an opportunity for him to do so.
Dhas completed his half-century in 47 balls with a pull off fast bowler Riley Norton and Saharan completed his half-century in 88 balls with a cover drive off off-spinner Juan James.
In the process, Saharan also became the leading run-scorer in this World Cup with 389 runs.
But both of these youngsters showed tremendous maturity and did not waste the start they were given; Scoring runs to keep the pressure on the host team.
His second century in this event was in his account, but Mafaka, the highest wicket-taker in the tournament so far, betrayed him with a slower ball, which Dhas managed to deliver to David Tegar at cover.
But the success came late as India continued to try to cross the line despite Saharan being run out with the scores tied.
Earlier, the bowlers played a key role in shaping India's victory, restricting 2014 champions South Africa to 244 for 7 on a pitch that was providing them considerable assistance.
After early setbacks, South Africa were given a chance to fight by wicketkeeper batsmen Luan-Dre Pretorius (76, 102 balls) and Richard Seletswane (64, 100 balls), but those efforts were not enough to trouble the visitors.
Pretorius and Seletswen added 72 runs for the third wicket but it took about 22 overs.
South Africa's top order could not cope with India's fast bowlers Naman Tiwary (1/52) and Raj Limbani (3/60), who got commendable pace, bounce and carry from the Willowmoor track.
Even when Seletswane and Pretorius were rebuilding the SA innings, they failed to score runs at a pace, in large part because the run-rate remained below four.
Off-spinner Priyanshu Molia, along with left-arm spinner Saumya Pandey and Musheer Khan (2/43), bowled precise lines and lengths to hamper the progress of the host batsmen in this phase.
Pretorius, who tried to inject some momentum by hitting a six over midwicket off Molia, departed just as the alliance began to flourish.
The left-handed batsman, who scored his third consecutive half-century in this tournament, looked to deliver the ball over midwicket to Musheer, but a leaping Murugan Abhishek ended his stay with a brilliant delivery.
Seletswen also could not move on to the stage as he soon fell to Tiwari as his blow ended at the hands of Moliya running in the deep.
James (24 off 19 balls) and Luus (23 off 12 balls) helped South Africa score 81 runs in the last 10 overs, but it was not enough to stop the Indians.