Peaking at the right time: Inside a rising star's U19 World Cup

Young gun Oliver Peake says his side's semi-final win at the U19 World Cup is the "best game" he has been a part of

Oliver Peake says he will have "a few catch up lessons" when he returns to school from the U19 World Cup but, for now, all of his attention is on creating history at the global event in South Africa this weekend.  

Following Australia's clutch semi-final win in the early hours of Friday morning, Peake and his teammates will now eye their first U19s title outside of Australia or New Zealand when they take on India from 7pm AEDT on Sunday in Benoni.

Peake, who came in as a replacement for Corey Wasley (finger injury) midway through the tournament, said it was "pretty surreal" when his teammates Raf MacMillan and Callum Vidler successfully claimed the final 16 runs required in a thrilling last-wicket partnership to win the game.

"It was a pretty amazing feeling seeing the ball go down to fine leg (to win the game)," Peake said.

"It was probably the best game I have ever been a part of, it was just so amazing.

"It’s hard to describe, from coming two weeks ago as a replacement to playing in a semi-final, it is a pretty dramatic change in events so I was pretty happy."

Alongside the team’s success winning all six of their games to power into the decider, Peake himself has played a strong part in the top-notch campaign.

He scored a crucial 49 from 75 balls in the thrilling semi-final and before that, the self-described "grinder" and "adaptable" batter had registered an impressive 25 not out in his first game. In between, he made a duck but for the youngest player in the team at 17 years of age, coming in midway through the tournament, he has had an almighty campaign already.

"The boys have been so good, they have just welcomed me in so well early on," he said.

"I was pretty nervous coming in being a couple years younger and not really knowing a lot of them from other states but they have made life so easy and I think it has definitely helped me perform better."

The Australia U19s will now face the tournament's most successful team in India who are the defending champions and have won four of the last eight tournaments dating back to 2008. 

Meanwhile, the Australia U19s last won in 2010 (New Zealand) and have been close to returning to the top since, coming runner-up in 2012 (Australia) and 2018 (New Zealand).

Peake pinpointed a winning attitude which struck a chord with the Geelong cricketer when looking at the current team.

"I think the culture around the group is so good, everyone is used to winning around here so that’s why there’s no excuses to lose really," he said.

"Everyone is so positive, everyone rocks up to the game not worrying about the opposition but worrying about ourselves.

"We got a lot of NSW and Queensland kids here and those two states have dominated the national carnivals.

"And I think they are used to rocking up to underage tournaments and doing really well and I think that’s having an effect on the rest of the group."

Peake has also had the support of his father Clinton who played first-class cricket for Victoria and also captained the 1994-95 Australia U19s team at 17 years of age.

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"Obviously Dad's been a massive influence on me," he said.

"The mindset of the game and preparing me for high levels of cricket from a young age. 

"He's noticed how much I love the game and how I want to go far so he has helped me work on things that need to be worked on to play at a high level. 

"He has looked at my career a bit more in the long term rather than short term results, which I am really grateful for now and things are starting to pay off."

Going back to when Peake got the alert that he would be coming into the side, the Geelong Grammar School Year 12 remembers the moment vividly.

"My heart started racing, I couldn’t believe it," he said.

"I just finished training at Geelong on a Tuesday night and I just saw a text from Clarkey (Australia U19s coach Anthony Clark) saying ‘there’s been an injury, can you call me, we are keen to get you over’.

"I called him walking across the ground, he picked up straight away and 30 hours later, we were on a flight which was pretty cool."

Australia take on India in the U19 World Cup final from 7pm AEDT Sunday, February 11. Watch live on Amazon Prime Video and follow the scores via the Cricket Australia Live app.