|Under 19 World Cup: New Zealand, January 2010|
Group B Preview
Australia and South Africa will be favourites to progress into the second round of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup (U19 CWC), which runs from 15 to 30 January in New Zealand, although a strong Ireland team could pose a threat if the young Aussies and Proteas are not on top form. The fourth team in Group B, USA, is a capable outfit on its day but could just lack the consistency to foot it with the top teams.
Group B teams have the pleasure of Queenstown as their base with the Events Centre ground providing one of the most picturesque backdrops in world cricket. With the town seen as the tourism capital of New Zealand it will surely keep these young men and their supporters entertained in their down time. Traditionally, the Events Centre provides a hard and fast track and it is likely Australia and South Africa will enjoy playing their group matches there.
South Africa came ever so close to winning the 2008 title, eventually losing a closely fought final to Virat Kohli’s India by just 12 runs. Wayne Parnell, who has since gone on to bigger and better things with the senior Proteas, was instrumental in his team’s success in Malaysia but it wasn’t quite enough for South Africa to claim its first U19 CWC.
The 2002 South Africa team also finished as runner-up, losing to a well-drilled Australia outfit, but on the whole its performances at the tournament have been mixed, fighting out the Plate play-offs in 2000 and 2006.
South Africa comes into the tournament after a commendable performance in the tri-nation series at home against India and Sri Lanka, finishing second after the final against India was rained off. Prior to that series, South Africa hosted England in January 2009 and claimed the one-day series 3-2, although just two players from that squad remain in the shape of left-arm slow bowler Dale Deeb and all-rounder Stephan Smith.
South Africa have selected a squad full of quality, boasting four players with first-class experience and two more with ‘List A’ experience. Colin Ackermann will seek to provide the bulk of the runs from first drop, showing his class in the recent tri-nation series with a sensational 133 not out off just 113 balls against India in a losing cause.
Left-handed opening batsman Dominic Hendricks has represented his state, Gauteng, in one-day matches with a top score of 51, and also impressed in the tri-nation series with a sparkling 66 against Sri Lanka.
Deeb will be one of the bowlers to watch at the U19 CWC after some credible performances on the first-class circuit for Gauteng, collecting 24 scalps at just less than 28 runs apiece with a career best of 6-50.
Australia has been a strong performer at the tournament, winning the title in 1988 and 2002, and being losing semi-finalists in 2000 and 2006. In 2008, Australia lost its quarter-final to Pakistan and went on to finish equal-fifth with England after their play-off match was abandoned due to rain.
The side’s performances have been mixed of late, losing 3-2 to Sri Lanka at home in October and losing 2-1 to India in April, also at home. While losing both series, individuals have put their hands up with strong performances throughout but as a collective they have struggled to put together a complete performance.
Of the current Australian Test team Marcus North, Nathan Hauritz, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson and Michael Clarke have all played in the U19 CWC and this year’s squad has some names which look set to take the cricketing world by storm.
Mitchell Marsh, son of Geoff and brother of Shaun, is undoubtedly the player to watch, having impressed in domestic cricket for Western Australia this summer, scoring three half-centuries from four one-day appearances including a best of 92 against Tasmania and 60 not out from just 29 balls against New South Wales. He has proved capable with the ball too, taking 4-6 in a recent Twenty20 match with some handy medium pace.
Alister McDermott (Queensland), Josh Hazlewood (New South Wales) and Kane Richardson (South Australia) will form a formidable new-ball attack, all having played for their respective states at senior level. McDermott is the son of former Australia pacer Craig, who took 291 Test wickets in 71 appearances for his country.
Ireland cruised through the global qualifiers with its only loss in nine matches being to fellow Group B qualifier USA. Notwithstanding that hiccup, Ireland has shown itself to be the most consistent qualifying side at the tournament and will be hoping for a bit of luck if it is to make it out of a tough group and into the top eight this year.
Ireland has never made the Super League stage in the past, even with players of the calibre of Ed Joyce, Eoin Morgan, William Porterfield and the O’Brien brothers, Kevin and Niall, playing for it over the years. Morgan, in fact, has scored the most runs in the tournaments’ history with 606 in just 13 matches with two centuries.
This year the Irish have another potential start in the form of Paul Stirling who knocked up two centuries at the qualifier tournament. The hard-hitting opening batsman made 164 off 128 balls against Vanuatu and a more sedate 117-ball hundred against the Netherlands. He has already made his full international debut and showed some promise with 30 off 26 balls against England in August last year. Ireland will need Stirling to be at his belligerent best if it is to qualify for the Super League in 2010 but there are also potential match-winners in captain Andrew Balbirnie, Graham McDonnell and Shane Getkate.
USA finished the global qualifying tournament in fifth place but was well ahead of Hong King who grabbed the final qualification spot. USA lost just three games all tournament – to Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and Canada – and surprised even themselves by beating Ireland along the way.
USA will be making just its second appearance in the U19 CWC after its first in 2006 landed it a credible 12th place, after losing the Plate semi-final to New Zealand.
Ryan Corns could prove to be the key player for the Americans after picking up the player of the tournament trophy in the qualifier in Toronto with 230 runs and 13 wickets with his slow left-arm orthodox. Right-arm leg spinner Saqib Saleem could also be a handful at the tournament after some crucial spells earned him 17 wickets at the qualifying event, including five wickets against Ireland.
Group B Squads
Josh Richards (captain), Colin Ackermann, Cody Chetty, Dale Deeb, Rabian Engelbrecht, Dominic Hendricks, Graham Hume, Simon Khomari, Kirk Wernars, Samuel Mofokeng, Bokang Mosena, Malcolm Nofal, Jerry Nqolo, Stephan Smith, David White.
Mitchell Marsh (captain), Tim Armstrong, Tom Beaton, Nick Buchanan, Jackson Coleman, Luke Doran, Ben Dougall, Jason Floros, Josh Hazlewood, Alex Keath, Nic Maddinson, Alister McDermott, Kane Richardson, Tom Triffitt, Adam Zampa.
Andrew Balbirnie (captain), Ben Ackland, Jordan Coghlan, Adrian D’Arcy, George Dockrell, Shane Getkate, Graeme McCarter, Graham McDonnell, Lee Nelson, Stuart Poynter, Eddie Richardson, James Shannon, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Craig Young.
Shiva Vashishat (captain), Salman Ahmad, Regis Burton, Ryan Corns, Muhammad Asad Ghous, Naseer Jamali, Abhijit Joshi, Azurdeen Mohammed, Saqib Saleem, Gregory Sewdial, Yash Shah, Hammad Shahid, Sammi Siddiqui, Steven Taylor, Henry Wardley.
Group B fixtures (Queenstown Events Centre)
Friday 15 January: South Africa v Ireland
Saturday 16 January: Australia v USA
Sunday 17 January: Australia v Ireland
Monday 18 January: South Africa v USA
Tuesday 19 January: Ireland v USA
Wednesday 20 January: South Africa v Australia