India survived a mini-scare from Papua New Guinea before sealing a comfortable 107-run win to seal their place in the quarterfinal of the Under-19 World Cup in Townsville on Thursday. India will face Pakistan in the quarterfinal on August 20.
For the second time in three league matches in Group C, India's batting struggled to come to grips with the conditions. Prashant Chopra (58), the opener, and Vijay Zol (72) made half-centuries as India stuttered to 204 all out after opting to bat. Chad Soper, the paceman, finished with excellent figures of 5 for 32.
PNG were never in the hunt, losing wickets at regular intervals. Kamal Passi, the hero of India's victory over Zimbabwe in their previous game, did the early damage but the wrecker-in-chief was Ravikant Singh. Introduced as the fourth bowler, Ravikant picked up 5 for 21 from nine overs to ensure that PNG were shot out for 97 in 31.5 overs.
Going into the knockout stage, though, India will realise that there is plenty of work ahead of them, especially in the batting department. Unmukt Chand, the skipper, Baba Aparajith and Hanuman Vihari all fell cheaply, but with Chopra striking boundaries at will, the rate of scoring was always impressive.
Chopra made 58 off 79 deliveries with seven fours but his dismissal by Kabua Vagi Morea, the debutant left-arm medium-pacer, followed almost immediately by the fall of Akshdeep Nath, had India in deep trouble at 98 for 5, raising visions of a shock PNG victory.
Zol bailed his team out of trouble, associating himself in a stand of 82 for the sixth wicket with Smit Patel, the wicketkeeper. Patel played his part with two fours and a six in his 39-ball 30, while Zol top-scored with 72. Once the stand was broken by Raymond Haoda, the bottom fell out of the Indian batting with Soper knifing through the tail. India lost their last five wickets for just 24 runs.
After an impressive display with the bat, PNG were completely at sea during their chase. Only three batsmen touched double figures as India bowled with discipline and penetration. The introduction of Ravikant into the attack triggered an astonishing collapse as PNG imploded from 42 for 2 to 97 all out and giving India second place in the group, behind the West Indies, and a place in the quarterfinal.
Brief scores: India U-19: 204 all out in 45.1 overs (Prashant Chopra 58, Vijay Zol 72, Smit Patel 30; Chad Soper 5-32, Toua Tom 2-26) bt Papua New Guinea U-19: 97 all out in 31.5 overs (Christopher Kent 27, Charles Amini 28; Kamal Passi 2-18, Ravikant Singh 5-21, Baba Aparajith 2-16) by 107 runs.