South Africa captain Aiden Markram is hopeful his country has finally shed the tag of being ‘chokers’ after guiding his side to a six-wicket win in the final of the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup.
Markram said the word ‘choke’ never came up in their discussions as they prepared for the final against Pakistan.
“It is a word that has been turned around. I think it has been sheer bad timing with the senior Proteas sides that they have been knocked out in tournaments,” said the captain, who scored 370 runs in 6 innings, the third highest in the tournament.
“That word never came up or played on our minds. Hopefully, we have got rid of the chokers tag to an extent with this win.”
Markram was glowing in his praise for his bowlers, especially Corbin Bosch and Justin Dill.
“We had some good plans for Pakistan and we wanted to rattle them upfront. We would have liked to strike a bit more with the new ball, but they got off to a good steady start,” Markram added.
“Those overs by Justin and Corbin were extremely crucial. They had a massive job to do. I like the way they responded.
“Each time I threw the ball up to them, you could see they were hungry and they were determined.”
Bowling hero Bosch dedicated his match-winning effort to his late father Tertius, a former South African fast bowler, who passed away when he was six.
“It was great to get out there and give my best performance in the final. I am so happy to have played well for the boys. I was hoping my time would come and I was getting inspired by the performances from the other players in the team,” said the 19-year-old.
“I did it for my dad. Inside, I have this huge belief that I am playing for him. I am here because of him. This week and all through the tournament, I have been doing it for my dad. It’s his birthday next weekend.”
South Africa Under-19 boys made history for the Rainbow Nation, becoming the first team from their country to win an ICC tournament when they beat Pakistan by six wickets in the final of the Cricket World Cup.
At the Dubai International Stadium on Saturday, they first dismissed Pakistan for paltry 131 in 44.3 overs, and then reached the target in the first ball of the 43rd over.
This was the third time South Africa reached the final of an U19 World Cup, and since readmission into global cricket in 1992, neither the seniors nor the juniors have won any ICC trophy.
The victory was set up by their superb bowling line-up, with medium-pacers Corbin Bosch and Justin Dill simply outstanding after Kagiso Rabada’s searing pace had softened up the early batsmen.
Rabada, who took 6-25 in the semi-final match against Australia, did the initial damage by removing danger man Imam-ul Haq, Pakistan’s most successful batsman in the tournament.
In company of captain Sami Aslam, Imam seemed to have negotiated the opening spell, when he edged a peach of a delivery from Rabada to wicketkeeper Clyde Fortuin in the ninth over.
Dill (2-29) and Bosch (4-15) replaced the opening bowlers and were just brilliant in their discipline and control. Together, they bowled 14 overs (seven each), with four maidens and picked up the next five batsmen giving away just 26 runs.
Bosch, the son of late South African fast bowler Tertius, who opened the bowling for South Africa in their first Test match against the West Indies on readmission, never wavered once from his line and later returned to clean bowl Zia-ul Haq to end Pakistan’s innings.
Both Dill and Bosch bowled consistently on the off stump with a slight hint of movement, and the first six Pakistan batsmen were all out caught behind the wicket, with Fortuin taking five of them.
The wicketkeeper then claimed another victim, Karamat Ali, but this time of spinner Yaseen Valli.
Even the presence of the legendary fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar in the stadium could not inspire the Pakistan bowlers as Aiden Markram played a captain’s inning of 66 not out (125 balls and six fours) and in the company of Greg Oldfield (40, 68b) took his team to a comfortable win.
Pakistan’s best chances were if their leg-spinner Karamat Ali clicked, and even though he took a wicket of his first over to reduced South Africa to 28-2 in the 12th over, he was handled very well by Markram and Oldfield.
Karamat still had some tricks up his sleeve and finally broke the third-wicket partnership when he had Oldfield (40 in 68b) caught behind by Saifullah Khan of a quicker delivery.
The third-wicket partnership was worth 71 invaluable runs. In the next over, Zia produced a gem as Valli shouldered arms to let one go, and the ball did enough to come back and clip his bails. It was 100-4 at that stage.
But Bradley Dial joined Markram and the two took South Africa past the target.
As sports fans, we are often guilty of being over-obsessed with the exploits of the senior national sides, and remain largely unaffected by what’s happening with the younger age categories.
The ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup, which concludes with the final between Pakistan and South Africa, has been a reminder why we should care more for youth tournaments.
The biggest attraction, obviously, is that one gets a crystal-ball view of the future of the game.
And there are many who have caught the eye. Players like Pakistan’s Imam-ul Haq, Sami Aslam and Karamat Ali; South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada and Yaseen Valli; India’s Sarfaraz Khan, Sanju Samson and Deepak Hooda, England’s Matthew Fisher and Ben Duckett; West Indies’ Nicolas Pooran; Australia’s Jake Doran and Sri Lanka’s Sadeera Samarawickerama are just some of the names who are sure to feature prominently in the coming years for their senior sides in different formats of the game.
But what is equally vital is the exposure that developing countries like the UAE have received.
It would not be wise to dilute the field of the men’s World Cup by offering more places to the Associate Members or qualifiers.
Apart from the schedule getting stretched, there will be too many one-sided matches. With that in mind, the U19 World Cup is the best way to introduce the newer cricketing nations to the pressures of a big tournament.
A couple of things need to be pointed out in praise of ICC. First, the firmness with which they handled disciplinary matters.
There were a few reprimands and suspensions, including one for the Indian captain Vijay Zol for audible abuse in their quarter-final loss to England.
Some may argue that the punishments are excessive, but they were as per ICC’s Code of Conduct, and the strict implementation was a perfect way to give these youngsters a message that there are things more important than winning in cricket.
The other was to play the semi-finals and final, and a few other matches under lights. It just gives these youngsters a better feel of what is in store for them in the near future.
The matches, barring a few, have all been extremely well competed. Hopefully, the final will be the icing on the cake.