Having won all their group stage matches convincingly, defending champions India will have a slight edge when they lock horns with England in the quarterfinals of the Under-19 World Cup.
In-form India had notched up a mammoth 245-run win over Papua New Guinea in their last round-robin match to top Group A and having posted 300-plus runs on a difficult batting wicket, the Vijay Zol-captained side will fancy its chances at the Dubai International Stadium.
India’s victory margin was the seventh-biggest in the history of youth ODIs. England, though, will not be as easy as they also have proven players who have impressed in the tournament.
The Indians kick-started their campaign with a 40-run victory over arch-rivals Pakistan. They struggled a bit against Scotland before pulling off a five-wicket win in their second match. The holders then roared back to form with a thrashing of New Papua Guinea on a Sharjah track that was not one of the best for batting.
Leading the side, Zol has been having a decent outing, but the batsman to look out for will be Sanju Samson. The 19-year-old, who plays for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League (IPL), had smashed his way to a 48-ball 85 against the hapless Papua New Guinea, giving enough indications about what the batsman is capable of when in form.
Provided the openers get starts, it could be difficult for the English bowlers to contain the Indian middle-order, with Zol and Samson holding fort. Both the openers, Ankush Bains and Akhil Herwadkar had decent outing in their last match, with the former scoring a solid half-century that stabilised the innings.
Left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav has been the most impressive Indian bowler in tournament, and he is expected to play a key role. He had returned with impressive figures of 4 for 10 against PNG, after failing to take a wicket in his 10 overs against Pakistan. He will look to maintain his reputation, being captain Zol’s go-to bowler.
India can take a lot of comfort from the fact that it leads 6-1 on head-to-head with England in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup. However, when the two sides met last, England defeated India by 31 runs with Ben Stokes scoring 100, in Lincoln in the 2010 event in New Zealand.
Zol, who was a member of the India side that won the tournament in Townsville in 2012, said: “It doesn’t matter that we’re playing England in the quarter-final. We have set our standards in all the three departments – batting, bowling and fielding. So, we’d like to live up to our standards.”
As far as England is concerned, they registered big wins against New Zealand (by 115 runs) and UAE (by 213 runs). Their only blip has been the narrow one-wicket defeat to Sri Lanka.
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