Group A Preview:

Champions India seek fast start


Reigning champions India will test their title credentials in Group A of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup.

With Rishabh Pant and Shubman Gill among those to have stamped their authority on recent editions of the event, the next generation of Indian stars look set to be born in South Africa.

Paras Mhambrey’s men were an all-conquering force in 2019, winning the Under-19 Asia Cup in September and a Tri-Nations tournament with England and Bangladesh held on English soil.

They have not lost a bilateral series since the 2017 U19 World Cup, beating South Africa, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan away from home.

Among potential breakout stars is southpaw opener Yashasvi Jaiswal, who became the youngest cricketer in the world to score a List A double century in October in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.

Captain Priyam Garg is well-stocked with the spin options, particularly left-armers Atharva Ankolekar and Shubhang Hegde, with Sushant Mishra leading the pace battery.

If India are the U19 World Cup’s most successful-ever team, winning four times, New Zealand is the home of the event with the famously welcoming nation having hosted the event three times, more than any other.

The Black Caps underachieved on home soil in 2018, finishing eighth, and will be looking to bounce back from recent series defeats to Bangladesh (4-1) and Australia (3-0).

They will be captained by Wellington’s left-arm spin-bowling all-rounder Jesse Tashkoff and coached by Paul Wiseman.

“We’re expecting a highly competitive World Cup,” said Wiseman.

“We’re very happy with the squad we’ve selected and believe the group will give us the best chance of success – but we’re under no illusions how tough it’s going to be.”

Sri Lanka will aim to be in a thorn in the side of their Group A rivals and will be out to recreate their feats of 2016 that saw them reach the semi-finals in Bangladesh.

They will be high on confidence after victory in a tri-series with England and West Indies in the Caribbean just two months ago, beating England by 77 runs in the final at Coolidge.

Their batting was particularly strong in the tri-series, sporting four of the top five run-scorers in the tournament, with Kamil Mishara leading the way with 230 runs.

Leg-spinner Kavindu Nadeeshan was the best of the bowlers, snaffling 18 wickets at ten apiece and only conceding 3.39 runs per over.

Japan round off the Group A line-up, participating in a global event for the first time.

Eleven of their squad will be eligible for the 2022 U19 World Cup and their players will doubtless soak up plenty of experience from competing against established Test nations.

The team, coached by Dhugal Bedingfield and captained by Marcus Thurgate, will hope to pack a punch with off-spinner Yugandhar Retharekar capable of breaking up batting line-ups.

GROUP A FIXTURES: 18 January: New Zealand v Japan – North-West University Oval, Potchefstroom; 19 January: India v Sri Lanka – Mangaung Oval, Bloemfontein; 21 January: India v Japan – Mangaung Oval, Bloemfontein; 22 January: New Zealand v Sri Lanka – Mangaung Oval, Bloemfontein; 24 January: India v New Zealand – Mangaung Oval, Bloemfontein; 25 January: Sri Lanka v Japan – North-West University Oval, Potchefstroom.

Group B Preview:

 Champions converge as debutants prepare for momentous occasion

Three former champions and a tournament debutant will come face-to-face as Group B shapes up for drama aplenty in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup.

Australia, England and West Indies have been drawn together for the first stage of South Africa 2020 but at least one of the three cricket powerhouses will miss out on progression.

The three nations – whose senior sides have all won the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup – certainly have a tough test in store but it doesn’t stop there, with Nigeria aiming for a big scalp on their U19 World Cup debut.

The momentous occasion will see Sylvester Okpe’s Junior Yellow Greens become the 31st team to compete since the tournament’s inaugural edition in 1988 when they face Australia, at Country Club B Field, on 20 January.

All Group B fixtures will take place at Kimberley, with West Indies the next challenge for Nigeria on 23 January before rounding off the opening stage against England at Diamond Oval.

Before that, the opening match at the same venue will see two former champions face off as Australia take on West Indies.

Winners of the Youth Cricket World Cup more than 30 years ago, Australia took the honour of becoming the first double champions when they prevailed at New Zealand 2002.

Eight years later they were winners again – also in New Zealand – while they head to Africa with a score to settle after finishing runners-up back in 2018.

Victoria’s teenage sensation Jake Fraser-McGurk – who doesn’t turn 18 until April – headlines the team after already making his mark in the domestic Sheffield Shield competition. The Australian teens will be coached by Test greats Chris Rogers and Ryan Harris, with three of the squad already boasting contracts in the Big Bash League.

West Indies, meanwhile, name three players that featured in the 2018 U19 World Cup, with captain Kimani Melius, Ashmead Nedd and Nyeem Young all returning for a second tournament.

They’ll do so desperate for improvement, with the talented teens missing out in the opening pool stage before eventually finishing tenth last time out.

With Chris Gayle and Brian Lara among their U19 World Cup alumni, there’s a lot to live up to for the West Indies team – victorious for the first time when beating India in the 2016 final.

“Leading the team, I will go about the job with a high level of integrity and respect,” said Melius.

“I would like to share my experience of 2018 and lead the way with the batting, doing what I can do win matches for the team.

“I never actually liked the game of cricket before playing, but I saw an ODI match on TV between England and Australia, went and had a go and just started working hard from there.”

The group also features the added edge of an Ashes rematch, with Australia and England facing off in a Kimberley contest that could determine who reaches the next stage.

Led by George Balderson, England will be confident of a strong showing in South Africa – the location of their maiden, and so far only, U19 World Cup title in 1998.

The legends of old have moved on but the expectations have remained, with England failing to reach the final since lifting the trophy two decades ago.

The two Ashes rivals met in the quarter-finals two years ago, with Lloyd Pope the star of the show after taking eight for 35 – the best figures in an U19 World Cup match – to lead Australia to victory.


18 January: Australia v West Indies – Diamond Oval, Kimberley;

20 January: England v West Indies – Diamond Oval, Kimberley;

20 January: Australia v Nigeria – Country Club B Field, Kimberley;

23 January: Australia v England – Diamond Oval, Kimberley;

23 January: West Indies v Nigeria – Country B Club Field, Kimberley;

25 January: England v Nigeria – Diamond Oval, Kimberley


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