After crossing the quarter-final hurdle, India U19 will be up against their arch-rivals Pakistan in the Super League Semi-Final at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom on Tuesday (February 4). Interestingly, both sides have been unbeaten in the tournament so far.
While India outclassed sides like Sri Lanka, Japan and New Zealand in the group stage before knocking out Australia in the Quarter-Final, Pakistan have registered victories against Scotland, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan while their contest against Bangladesh was washed out.
The two teams have a rich history in the U19 World Cups. The neighbouring countries have faced off in nine editions with Pakistan winning five games to India’s four. However, India have the upper hand in recent meetings with three victories to Pakistan’s one in the last four encounters since 2010.
The two sides last met in the semi-final of the previous edition of the tournament where India humbled Pakistan by 203 runs bowling them out for an embarrassing total of 69. Interestingly, Pakistan’s current U19 skipper, Rohail Nazir, was part of that XI as a wicketkeeper-batsman. Elevated to the captaincy duties this time, Nazir would want to avenge the defeat but has his task cut out given the current form of the Indian colts.
India have emerged as one of the top U19 sides in the last few editions of the World Cup. They have been undefeated since the 2018 World Cup where the Prithvi Shaw-led side cleanswept all their opponents and the current squad, led by Priyam Garg, is moving along the same lines.
India’s biggest strength has been their batting. The glaring gap between the batting average of India and other sides indicate Men in Blue’s supremacy with the bat in the tournament.
The openers, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Divyansh Saxena, have been in solid form. As a result, India have always been off to a good start with opening partnerships of 66, 42*, 115* and 35 so far. The only game where India lost their first wicket before 50 - in the quarter-final versus Australia - witnessed the lower order getting into the action to carry India to a competitive total.
On the bowling front, the Indian boys once again come out to be second to none.
Kartik Tyagi and Ravi Bishnoi, the spearheads of the pace and spin bowling department respectively, have taken 20 wickets between them, with both bowling at an average of under 10 runs per wicket. While Bishnoi picked four-wicket hauls against Japan and New Zealand, Tyagi broke the back of Australia’s run chase in the quarter-final with figures of 4 for 24.
Pakistan have four batsmen averaging over 50 in this tournament but will rely heavily on their middle-order duo of Qasim Akram and Mohammad Haris who have seemed to be their most solid batsmen.
Both teams comprise of some terrific players who have led their side’s run to the semis. Here are three from each side who hold the ability to play a decisive role in the semi-final clash:
The left-handed opening batsman came to the tournament with a great reputation, courtesy of being the only batsman in the tournament with a List-A double hundred to his name. Although, he has not played an innings of that magnitude yet in this competition, he has been crucial to India’s campaign with scores of 62, 57*, 29* and 59 in the tournament. India’s top-scorer in the championship with 207 runs at an average of 103.5, Jaiswal’s 62 off 82 balls in the quarter-final was critical for India before the lower order took over and the Indian fans will expect a similar knock from him on Tuesday.
Tyagi arrived at the World Cup with the responsibility of leading India’s pace attack and the right-arm seamer has not disappointed yet. The 19-year old has snapped up nine wickets at the rate of 9.8 runs and 17.5 balls per wicket beating the batsmen with both swing and pace. His opening over against Australia where he struck twice with the ball pushed the Aussies on the backfoot in the first over of the run chase. Overall, his figures read 8-0-24-4 helping India to advance to the semis and earn him the man-of-the-match. He will once again be key to India’s prospects of playing their third U19 World Cup final in a row.
A left-arm spin-bowling all-rounder, Atharva Ankolekar has contributed with both bat and ball in India’s campaign as defending champions. The 19-year-old picked 3 for 28 in India’s win over New Zealand. Against Australia in the quarter-final, he got his first chance with the bat and responded with a vital 55* at number seven. He later bowled seven overs without any success but kept the pressure on the opponent batsmen with miserly economy of 3.1 runs per over. Ankolekar has been a consistent performer for India. His match-winning spell of 5 for 28 in the Asia Cup final last year while India were defending a below-par score of 106 is still fresh in memories of cricket fans.
The 17-year old right-hander has been one of the top all-rounders of the tournament. Alongside taking three wickets with his off-breaks at an impressive rate of 18.7 runs per wicket and an economy of 3.1 runs per over, Qasim has also held Pakistan’s middle-order together batting at an average of 84. He has been dismissed only once in the tournament as yet - a run out against Zimbabwe - coming out to bat in three innings.
In the quarter-final against Afghanistan, he carried the team safely to the target with an efficient knock of 25* after bowling a tenacious spell of 1 for 15 in eight overs.
Another 17-year old, Mohammad Huraira led Pakistan’s reply in the quarter-final against Afghanistan scoring a fluent 64 off 76 balls. His innings was ended by a mankad from Afghanistan spinner, Noor Ahmad but Huraira ensured people took notice of the mature head he carries on his shoulders in what was his debut for Pakistan at the U19 level. Nephew of the former Pakistan skipper, Shoaib Malik, Huraira is seen as another budding cricketer from Sialkot and it will be interesting to see how he tackles the spearhead of India’s pace battery - Kartik Tyagi.
A right-arm medium pacer, Abbas Afridi has been Pakistan’s highest wicket-taker in the tournament with nine scalps. Though his economy has been on the higher side, he has been amongst wickets in every game for Pakistan - two wickets against Scotland, three against Zimbabwe, three against Bangladesh and one against Afghanistan.
18 years old, Abbas already holds the priceless experience of playing first-class and List-A cricket which might come handy in a high pressure knockout game against the arch-rivals.