After the 10-day long group stage, the under-19 World Cup now heads into the all-important knockout stages with the emerging stars hoping to showcase their mettle under the pressure. The top two teams from the four groups have advanced to the Super League. India, West Indies, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand will fight it out for the title in the Super League phase while the remaining teams play a different set of knockouts in the Plate League.
The Super League phase ultimately decides the winner and it is this league that will attract all the attention over the next few days as the winners and runners up from the groups fight it out in a knockout battle.
As we head into the quarter-finals, here is a look at how the top eight teams have fared, their chances in the knockout phase and their standout players.
India were dominant in the group stages, brushing aside Sri Lanka and Japan before a rain-shortened game against New Zealand tested them to some extent. With three wins out of three, India avoided what is appearing to be a strong West Indies side in the quarter-finals, but in Australia they have a pretty strong opposition to push past.
Billed as the favourites, the Indian colts have lived up to their reputation so far with the bat and ball. While the bowling has looked threatening, the concern as they head into the Super League quarter-finals is that none except the openers — Yashasvi Jaiswal and Divyansh Saxena — got to bat in two out of the three matches in the group phase.
That said, the middle-order did fire in the first match against Sri Lanka, and India appear ready to counter a rather strong Australian unit.
— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) January 25, 2020
The pace bowling resources — Akash Singh, Sushant Mishra and Kartik Tyagi — haven't really fired in unison yet, but the spinners have had a pretty good time and remain India's key to winning the title. The spinners have contributed more than 15 wickets in the group stages.
Player watch: Ravi Bishnoi
Ravi Bishnoi has been India's go-to bowler in the World Cup so far. The leg-spinner, who was snapped up by Kings XI Punjab for Rs 2 crore in the IPL auction, has picked up 10 wickets — twice that of the next best Indian bowler — in three matches at an average of 7.90. He teamed up with Atharva Ankolekar in the final game against New Zealand, and India's spin stock immediately wore a more threatening look. Bishnoi's threat multiplies with Ankolekar at the other end and Australia will be wary of these spin twins in the quarter-finals.
Australia started this tournament with a jolt as a pumped up West Indies side bundled them out for 179. To their credit, the Aussie under-19 boys put up a strong fight and did not lose until the 46th over of the second innings in the game, by when they had taken seven West Indies wickets. It is this fighting spirit that has stood out for the Aussies so far this tournament.
Against England, they came back from the dead to eke out a two-wicket win after looking down and out at one stage. With 40 runs needed in 18 balls, Australia's campaign seemed to be done and dusted until Connor Sully summoned the Australian spirit with a blistering knock that led them to a win. Sandwiched between these matches was a thrashing of Nigeria where they bowled out the newbies for 61 and chased down the target in less than eight overs.
Australia, however, now face a daunting task as they come across India. The Mackenzie Harvey-led unit has done well with the ball, but hasn't been totally convincing with the bat inspite of the presence of players like Jake Fraser-McGurk and Sam Fanning at the top. In the two big games against West Indies and England, they found themselves losing more wickets than they would have liked upfront. It is one area they would want to work on before taking on a bullish Indian outfit.
Player watch: Tanveer Sangha
The fact that Australia's player of the tournament so far has been a spinner is no surprise if you have seen Tanveer Sangha bowl. The leg-spinner picked up four big scalps in the match against West Indies and then went on to run through Nigeria's batting with a spell of 10-4-14-5. Against England, he was containing and appeared as a pretty mature bowler, ready to make the step up. Against India's wristy batsmen, Sangha will have a completely different challenge, but given how he has bowled, the wrist spinner will remain a major hurdle for the sub-continental giants.
New Zealand's path to the quarter-finals hit a major hurdle after their game with the Japan under-19 side was abandoned. With just one point against the weakest opposition in the group after the first game, the Kiwis had to stay on top in the other two matches to qualify.
They defeated Sri Lankan to win by seven wickets in a run-chase that went down to the wire. With 12 runs needed in the final over, pacer Kristian Clarke had to step in and slam a six off the penultimate delivery to win the game for the Black Caps colts.
They were then forced to chase big against India after rain intervened proceedings. 192 in 23 overs against a very strong bowling attack was always going to be a tough task for the Kiwis. To their credit, they started off well, racing to 53 in 5.3 overs before losing their first wicket. The lower middle-order, though, failed to fire and batting depth could indeed be one of their areas of concern as they take on a strong West Indies side in the quarter-finals.
Player watch: Rhys Mariu
Rhys Mariu has been at the forefront of New Zealand's improved batting show in this World Cup so far. Prior to the tournament, they had struggled to consistently put up decent scores or chase down targets. Against Sri Lanka and in the rain-shortened affair against India, there were indications suggesting that New Zealand might have overcome this issue with major thanks to Mariu. The opener is the second highest run-scorer in the tournament so far with 179 runs in three outings at an average close to 60. A half-century against Japan in the first game was followed by a mature 106-ball 86 against Sri Lanka in a tricky run-chase and a 31-balll 42 against India in a match where he had to set the tempo.
West Indies have been driven by some extraordinarily talented under-19 players and seem like a daunting unit as they head into the quarter-finals. Nyeem Young, who has 129 runs at an average of 43 and a strike rate above 110, Kelvon Anderson, 128 runs at an average of 64, Jayden Searles, who has 8 wickets at 11.12, have been the standout players for the Windies.
They bowled the Aussies out for 179 in their first game and then chased it down, albeit with a struggle, to kick-start their campaign. Against England, West Indies were even more convincing as they racked up 267 and had England on the mat at 184 for 9.
In the final group fixture against Nigeria, the West Indies colts amassed 303 batting first with a very different set of batsmen contributing to the total. They then cleaned up the newbies for 57 to reach the quarter-finals. The advantage West Indies have over most of the other teams is the fact that most of their players have had playing oppotunities in their primary discipline in the first three games. They have hit the ground running, and seem set to thump New Zealand in the quarter-finals.
Player watch: Nyeem Young
This isn't the first time that the world has witnessed Nyeem Young's talent. He was a standout player in the 2018 under-19 World Cup too, sizzling with a strike rate of 134.48 after walking in lower down the order. His handy medium pace was a second-fiddle to his incredible striking abilities then, but this time around Young has blossomed across departments. A match-winning 69-ball 61 against Australia was followed by a 41-ball 66 and a five-wicket haul against England. In West Indies' quest to glory, Young will be a major player as the tournament enters the knockout phase.
The hosts were given a resounding thrashing by Afghanistan in the tournament opener. Much like their senior team, the Proteas colts have been dreadful in recent times although they did manage to qualify for the knockout stages thanks to the fact that they had to face just two minnows — Canada and UAE — in their two other group games.
Against Afghanistan, South Africa were bowled out inside 30 overs, putting up a grand total of just 129. There was little fight from the bowlers as well as the 2018 semi-finalists thumped them by seven wickets. To their credit, South Africa came back to win against Canada quite convincingly, posting 349 batting first and then bowling the opposition out for 199.
Bryce Parsons looks a serious talent.
— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) January 26, 2020
In their final group game against UAE, the Proteas made 299 before UAE's innings was halted at 112/3 owing to rain. The hosts won by DLS method, but the fact that the minnows still made runs against their bowling attack should worry the Proteas think-tank. They take on a strong Bangladesh outfit in the Super League quarter-finals and will have to play out of their skins to keep the Asian team at bay.
Player watch: Bryce Parsons
Parsons has been the standout player for South Africa in this World Cup. With leadership responsibility, Parsons has led from the front, topping the run charts with 245 runs in three matches at an average of 81.67. A gritty 42-ball 40 against Afghanistan was followed by a spectacular hundred against Canada and an 83-ball 84 against UAE. Parsons' left-arm spin has also contributed wickets and he will certainly be the lynchpin if South Africa are to progress further in this competition.
Bangladesh were always going to be dark horses in this tournament given their incredible form in the build up to the World Cup. In a rain-shortened game against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh emerged, convincingly, on top with a nine-wicket victory. Crucially, each of their bowlers picked up a wicket apiece in that game to warm themselves up for the tournament.
Against Scotland, Bangladesh were at their best, bowling the opposition out for 89 and then chasing down the total rather comfortably. Parveez Hossain Emon was yet again impressive in this game with a mini-cameo after a half-century against Zimbabwe had revealed his more tenacious side.
In their final clash against Pakistan, Bangladesh were lucky to escape with a point after rain lashed out when they were in dire straits at 106 for 9.
Top-order batting was assumed to be Bangladesh's strength in this tournament until it collapsed unceremoniously against Pakistan. They will now rather rely on the potent bowling attack which has clicked in sync pre-tournament and now during the World Cup too. Their challenge as they take on South Africa will be to negotiate the host's pace attack. After the top-order failure against Pakistan's pace attack, Bangladesh will be wary of an equally good South African bowling attack.
Player watch: Rakibul Hasan
Although batting has been touted as their strong point, one bowler who stood out was Rakibul Hasan, in his only game in the tournament. A four-wicket haul against Scotland might not seem much on paper but Bangladesh will be up against a South African side that has had its fair share of struggles against spin in this World Cup so far. With flight, guile and turn, Rakibul was quite impressive against the Scotts and has the game to topple South Africa's batting line-up in the quarter-finals.
Pakistan have an impressive pace attack even with Naseem Shah not making to the tournament. From Mohammad Wasim to Abbas Afridi and Tahir Hussain, Pakistan have an unrelenting array of pacers ready to be unleashed upon opposition batsmen. As they head into a Super League quarter-final clash against Afghanistan, it is this pace attack that will give hope to the team.
Shaheen Afridi is 19
Mohammad Hasnain is 19
Muhammad Musa is 19
Amir Khan is 18
Tahir Hussain is 17
Naseem Shah is 16
— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) January 24, 2020
They bowled out Scotland for 75 in their first match of this World Cup and then went on to win by seven wickets despite the openers failing. If there were any doubts surrounding their batting, those concerns were put to rest against Zimbabwe when they made 294 even without their skipper Rohail Nazir contributing any runs. The bowling was once again right on the money as the pacers split six wickets between them.
In their last game against Bangladesh, Pakistan's real strength came to the fore. Once again the bowling unit stood up before rain brought an early end to that clash. Afghanistan have the batting strength to counter Pakistan's pace attack and in case that happens, Pakistan's batting depth will be tested against a strong Afghanistan bowling attack.
Player watch: Abbas Afridi
Abbas Afridi has been impressive in this tournament with eight wickets in three matches at a strike rate of 16.5. The right-arm pacer picked up two for 33 in the opening game as Mohammad Wasim ran through the Scotts. In the next fixture against Zimbabwe, Afridi stood out with key wickets, including that of top-scorer Milton Shumba, at crucial phases in the match. A searing spell of 3 for 20 against Bangladesh further reinstated Afridi's status as a player to watch out for in the quarter-finals and hopefully beyond.
Semi-finalists in 2018, Afghanistan were quick to prove that they have a consistent stream of talent coming through the pipeline when they stunned hosts South Africa in the tournament opener. Forced to bowl first, Fazal Haq started South Africa's misery with two early wickets before Afghanistan's real strength — the spin department — bowled South Africa out for 129.
Shafiqullah Ghafari has grabbed headlines this World Cup with his leg-spin bowling. Ghafari has 11 wickets in two matches with another five-for against UAE bringing his average to 3.45. But Ghafari isn't all what Afghanistan is about as they head into the quarter-finals by topping Group D.
Against UAE, Afghanistan put up 265 on board with Ibrahim Zadran, already a capped player across formats, shining. 17-year old Rahmanullah also joined the party and is a key batsman in the middle-order for them alongside Imran Mir, who made a half-century against South Africa. Zadran also has half-centuries in both completed matches so far this tournament and is a big player for them given his experience with the senior team. They head into the quarter-final clash against Pakistan after a fairly long gap — they last played on 22nd January with their match against Canada on 24th being washed out — but there has been no shortage of energy in the camp.
— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) January 24, 2020
Player watch: Shafiqullah Ghafari
After a six-wicket haul against South Africa in the first game, Ghafari grabbed a five for 23 against UAE to once again establish his credentials as a wicket-taking leggie. Ghafari has been the standout performer in Afghanistan's wins but against the strong players of spin that Pakistan boast of, the leg-spinner will be tested. What makes Ghafari a tricky customer is his exceptionally disguised googly which teams have failed to pick. Four of his six wickets against South Africa came off wrong 'uns and Pakistan will know that they need to counter this variation to beat this Afghanistan side.
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