Fatullah: It was a day of double delight for young Rishabh Pant as he guided the India colts to the semifinal of the ICC U-19 World Cup here with a crushing 197-run win over Namibia besides fetching Rs 1.9 crore IPL deal with the Delhi Daredevils.
Left-handed Pant propelled India to 349 for 6 with a pulsating 111 off 96 balls, with other contributions coming from Anmolpreet Singh (41), Sarfaraz Khan (76) and Armaan Jaffer (64).
Anmolpreet also chipped in with three valuable wickets and alongside other spinners, Mayank Dagar (3/25) and Washington Sundar (2/27), plotted the downfall of Namibia, who folded up for 149 in 39 overs.
Namibia began the mammoth chase well with openers SJ Loftie-Eaton and Niko Davin taking the team past 50. But their challenge fizzled out soon after and from 59 for no loss the team was tottering at 96 for five.
The African side was expected to show more fight in the quarterfinals after it famously knocked out defending champions South Africa in the group stage.
As it turned out, it was India, coached by batting great Rahul Dravid, all the way, be it the professional effort with the ball or their stellar batting performance after winning the toss.
Pant's fireworks were on display hours before he was bought by Delhi Daredevils for Rs 1.9 crore after a bidding war with the Mumbai Indians.
"I think we have played some good cricket right through the tournament. At some stages, I still feel we have not played a perfect game, but this was our best all-round performance," Dravid said.
We had a few hiccups earlier on in the batting but it is nice to see that we have recovered and we are playing well. We're playing good cricket, focusing on the processes and not worrying too much about the results and things are going well."
Pant's captain Ishan Kishan too had another reason to smile although he was out cheaply in the game, after he too went under the hammer in the auction back home with Gujarat Lions picking him for Rs 35 lakh.
Pant, who had smashed 78 off 24 balls in the last match, was unstoppable on Saturday as well. The Delhi-based wicketkeeper batsman hammered 14 fours and couple of sixes in his entertaining knock that laid the foundation for a big total.
Dravid said he had reminded his boys not to be over-confident or complacent. "When you come into knock-out stage, you can't take any team for granted. Namibia put in some very good performances to get here. Before the game started, we spoke about the dangers of being complacent and we wanted to get a win.
"The focus was to win and not about anything else. I am glad that we were able to put on a commanding performance and qualify for the semifinals."
Sarfaraz too continued with his rich vein of form with a run-ball 76. It was his third 70 plus score in the four games India have played in the tournament.
India captain Ishan said, "We set a good target with Pant leading the way and then fielded and bowled well today.
"It was nice to move into the semifinals with such a good win. Namibia had a good start, but we needed to stay patient and once the first wicket fell, we applied pressure on their batsmen."
Asked whether India would prefer to face England or the West Indies in the semifinal, Kishan said: "We can fare well against either team. We just need to play to our strengths and do the basics right."
Brief scores: India 349/6 in 50 overs (Rishabh Pant 111, Sarfaraz Khan 76; Fritz Coetzee 3/78)
Namibia 152 all out in 39 overs (Niko Davin 33; Mayank Dagar 3/25, Anmolpreet Singh 3/27)...