Skipper Unmukt Chand scored a spectacular hundred to help India upstage defending champions Australia by six wickets and win the Under-19 World Cup here Sunday.
Chand (111 not out) and Smit Patel (62 not out) anchored India's remarkable fightback, conjuring up an unbeaten 130-run stand for the fifth wicket to chase down a competitive 225 at the Tony Ireland Stadium. Chand saved the best for the last and enthralled the sizeable Indian supporters by smashing seven fours and as many sixes with some breathtaking stroke-play.
Patel hit a four over mid-wicket for the winning runs and ran hysterically towards his teammate for the victory celebration.
This is the third World Cup triumph for the Indian colts after 2000 and 2008 edition. This time, they overcame a team that entered the title clash unbeaten and which had not lost a final. They won the World Cup thrice.
The fact that Indian played all their matches at this picturesque venue helped them against the hosts and the presence of a fair sprinkling of vociferous expats to support them made them feel at home.
"I do not know what is happening right now. The win has not yet sunk in. The Aussies played very well but we came on top. Townsville has been amazing for us. I would like to thank the support staff, my team, we had a great time together, it is a very emotional moment," said man of the match Chand at the post-match presentation.
Patel joined Chand at a precarious moment with India 97 for four at the half-way stage, to be precise 24.2 overs, needing another 129 runs. It seemed a big ask against an Australian attack that had the upper hand.
But the talented Chand-Patel duo held their nerves and batted sensibly to first dig in and then overpower their formidable opponents. The highlight of their stand was the way they rotated the strike, complimenting each other with a boundary every now and then to make sure the asking rate is within reach.
Luck was also on India' side as Chand was dropped twice while Patel was lucky once. The skipper got the first lifeline in the 19th over when wicketkeeper Jimmye Peirson could not hold on to a regulation catch off fast bowler Gurinder Sandhu.
Chand's next let off came at a much more important time, he was on 84 and the team still required 49 off 42 balls. The Delhi player chipped one to mid-wicket off Alex Gregory and opposition captain William Bosisto could not fasten on to a straight-forward catch.
Chand cut loose thereafter, hitting Gregory for a straight six to enter the nineties and another one over the cover in his next over to bring up a remarkable century. There was no stopping the Indians from there on.
India faltered in the middle overs after the sizzling start provided by Chand and Baba Aparajith (33), who took the team to 60 for one in the first 10 overs. The run chase slowed down considerably when Aparajith was caught at cover off Sandhu in the 15th over.
Earlier, Australia did well to get to 225 for eight after losing the first four wickets for 38 runs. Bosisto (87 not out) played a captain's knock to bail the team out of trouble and got good support from Travis Head (37) and Ashton Turner (43).
India medium pacer Sandeep Sharma did the maximum damage, taking four wickets for 54 runs.