Given the short-and-sweet nature of the round-robin stage of the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup, teams that lose their opening encounters usually find themselves in a do-or-die scenario soon after. At the Cobham Oval in Whangarei on Tuesday (16 January), it will be Ireland and Pakistan striving to avoid defeat. Having lost to Sri Lanka and Afghanistan respectively, victory is imperative for both sides – a defeat will mean elimination.
A middle-order collapse is what cost Pakistan in that opening match against Afghanistan. Rohail Nazir’s 81 had set things up nicely for them, but they were snuffed out for 188. Their bowlers then did well to reduce Afghanistan to 50/3 but couldn’t capitalise, Darwish Rasooli scoring 76 to give Afghanistan the victory. Despite that, Pakistan should have enough in them to keep Ireland at bay, especially given the fact that they recently reached the Under 19 Asia Cup final, seeing off all of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and UAE en route.
Ireland might have suffered a seven-wicket loss to Sri Lanka, but they had their moments. Jamie Grassi impressed considerably during his 75, and Ireland could have had Sri Lanka under the pump had they capitalised on their 73-run opening stand. They also impressed with the ball, reducing Sri Lanka to 9/2 and 51/3 before Dhananjaya Lakshan and Kamindu Mendis took it away from them. Expect them to push Pakistan hard.
Players to watch
Rohail Nazir (Pak)
What stood out about Rohail Nazir when he batted against Afghanistan was his composure. He faced up to an aggressive Naveen-ul-Haq, the Afghanistan captain, and rode the storm when wickets fell around him. During the course of his 81, Pakistan looked to have bounced back after early setbacks, and it is only after he was dismissed that Afghanistan truly got a foothold on the innings. He is certainly in good nick, and Ireland will need to find a way past him if they are to entertain hopes of toppling Pakistan.
Joshua Little (Ire)
For a while during the clash against Sri Lanka, it seemed as though Ireland would struggle to even cross 200. That they eventually posted 207 had a lot to do with Little. His 19-ball 25 added power and intensity to the innings, and he looks the type capable of muscling sixes almost at will. With the ball, he is a hard worker and deceptively quick. Given the fact that he has already made his full international debut in T20Is, Pakistan might have to pay extra attention to him.
Head to head
Ireland and Pakistan have so far played each other just twice in the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup. The first occasion was in the 1998 ICC U19 CWC, when Pakistan won by a huge margin of 139 runs. The second and last time was six years later, in Khulna in 2004, when they were again comprehensive winners, easing to an eight-wicket victory.
World Cup history
Pakistan are the third-most successful team in ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup history, having taken home the title twice, in 2004 and 2006, behind only India and Australia. They have made the final on a further three occasions, including at the first-ever tournament in 1988, with a team including future legends Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mushtaq Ahmed.
Ireland have made seven appearances at the Under 19 World Cup over the years, going back to 1998 when they made their debut in South Africa. They have never made the knockouts, but their highest finish of 10th did come on these shores in 2010. They played the 2016 tournament only because Australia withdrew, and they ended the campaign in 13th spot.
On the eve of the match, Whangarei battled showers, high wind speeds and the stinging sun, all taking turns to beat down. Expect a few delays during the match, but nothing too serious as to force abandonment – the drainage at the Cobham Oval is said to be particularly good.
Pakistan: Hasan Khan (c), Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Ali Khan, Ammad Alam, Zaid Alam, Ali Zaryab, Arshad Iqbal, Muhammad Mohsin Khan, Muhammad Musa, Saad Khan, Rohail Nazir (wk), Munir Riaz, Suleman Shafqat, Imran Shah, Mohammad Taha.
Ireland: Harry Tector (c), Ian Anders, Aaron Cawley, Varun Chopra, Mark Donegan, JJ Garth, Jamie Grassi, Reece Kelly, Graham Kennedy, Josh Little, Sam Murphy, Max Neville, Neil Rock, Morgan Topping, Andrew Vincent.
This article first appeared on ICC-Cricket.com