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08 February 201621:27 By Sidhanta Patnaik, Mirpur

India Under-19 batting faces test by spin in semi-final

Sri Lanka Under-19 looks a settled side, and the win over England Under-19 in the quarter-final game has made it a serious title contender

India Under-19 batting faces test by spin in semi-final - Cricket News

How India does against a quality attack, having played three of its four matches so far against non-Test-playing nations, remains to be seen.

The ICC Under-19 World Cup 2016 has been an excellent affair.

Nepal Under-19 and Namibia Under-19 surprised everyone with their fighting spirit. Backed by a passionate home crowd, Bangladesh Under-19 has been sensational on the way to its first semi-final in a multi-nation event at any level, the West Indies Under-19 pacers have been a delight to watch. And the human tales to emerge from the 16 teams across six cities in Bangladesh have been moving.

Now comes the business end of the tournament, which begins with the semi-final between India Under-19 and Sri Lanka Under-19 at Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur on Tuesday (February 9).

For Ishan Kishan and Charith Asalanka, captain of India and Sri Lanka respectively, the journey to this stage couldn’t have been more different. Viewed as captaincy material from an early age, Asalanka led Sri Lanka at the Under-15 level. Kishan, on the other hand, impressed Rahul Dravid only recently and replaced Ricky Bhui at the helm in the middle of the tri-nation series in Colombo before coming to Dhaka.

While Asalanka has been Sri Lanka’s star with his individual performances and shrewd captaincy, Kishan has garnered a lot of attention for the story of his rise from Patna to being bought by Gujarat Lions in the Indian Premier League auction for Rs 35 lakh.

Any distracting thoughts, however, would be far away from their minds as they lead their countries in what will be the biggest match of their respective careers.

With spin expected to play a major role in the game at a venue where both teams have already seen some action, Sri Lanka could have the advantage. In the quarter-final against England Under-19, it bowled 42.2 overs of spin. India, on the other hand, has taken a bit longer to find their lead spinner after Zeeshan Ansari failed to deliver with his leg-spin. The accuracy of Mayank Dagar, the left-arm spinner who sat out the first two matches, has allowed Mahipal Lomror, Washington Sundar and Anmolpreet Singh to slot comfortably into their role as support bowlers.

The lack of potency in the spin department, however, has been covered up to an extent by Avesh Khan, who is the only Indian in the top-ten wicket-takers’ list.

With the bowling woes still not completely solved, India will rely on the batsmen to deliver in a do-or-die clash.

How India does against a quality attack, having played three of its four matches so far against non-Test-playing nations, remains to be seen, and if Rishabh Pant and Sarfaraz Khan, who has been dismissed in the 70s thrice in the tournament, don’t go to the top of the batting charts in this game, and Kishan, Armaan Jaffer and Washington have an off day, then things could be really tricky.

Bhui’s poor form forced India to give Anmolpreet Singh a chance at No. 3 in the quarter-final against Namibia Under-19, and he grabbed it with both hands – as an all-rounder. If India stick with him, then it will be a big setback for Bhui, who was expected to lead the batting unit in his second World Cup appearance.

Sri Lanka looks pretty sorted. It lost to Pakistan, but the manner of its victory against England in friendly conditions has made it a serious title contender. First the spinners took eight wickets between them, and then, led by Avishka Fernando’s 95, the batting unit had a much-needed workout.

“It’s certainly an advantage for us. They played against Namibia and we played against England in the quarterfinals,” said Asalanka in his usual blunt fashion. “We know exactly what their strengths and weaknesses are because we have played against India in December in the tri-series.”

India may have beaten Sri Lanka in that series, but the dynamics of a televised knockout game is different. With so much at stake for youngsters in India, who are relentless in their pursuit of becoming superstars, it is not far-fetched to think of the number of messages they would have received on match eve.

Every seemingly well-intended ping adds an extra layer of pressure. Kishan just hoped that his boys would be their natural selves on the field come game time. “Pressure is there for everyone because this is not an easy level for cricketers. We need to be mentally strong and not buckle under pressure that it’s a semifinal,” said Kishan. “It can happen in a World Cup semifinal since it’s a big match. There are expectations as a lot of people are watching you on TV.”

Teams (from)
India U19:
Ishan Kishan (capt), Rishabh Pant (wk), Khaleel Ahmed, Zeeshan Ansari, Rahul Batham, Ricky Bhui, Mayank Dagar, Armaan Jaffer, Sarfaraz Khan, Amandeep Khare, Avesh Khan, Mahipal Lomror, Shubham Mavi, Anmolpreet Singh, Washington Sundar.
Sri Lanka U19: Charith Asalanka (capt), Sammu Ashan, Kaveen Bandara, Jehan Daniel, Avishka Fernando, Asitha Fernando, Wanidu Hasaranga, Lahiru Kumara, Kamindu Mendis, Charana Nanayakkara, Thilan Nimesh, Vishard Randika, Lahiru Samarakoon, Damitha Silva.

Super League play-off semi-final - Pakistan U-19 v Nepal U-19
Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium, Fatullah

Considering how Pakistan Under-19 has played in the tournament so far, it was expected to beat West Indies Under-19. But a batting collapse in the quarter-final has left it fighting for a fifth place, and the first step would be to beat Nepal Under-19 in the play-off semi-final.

Nepal, on the other hand, has been one of the surprise packages of the tournament, and it will be backing itself to go one step further.

Teams (from)

Pakistan U-19: Gohar Hafeez (capt), Saif Ali, Saif Badar, Sameen Gul, Salman Fayyaz, Shadab Khan, Hasan Khan, Irfan Liaqat, Hasan Mohsin, Umair Masood, Zeeshan Malik, Arsal Sheikh, Ahmad Shafiq. Mohammad Umar, Hayatullah.

Nepal U-19: Raju Rijal (capt), Dipendra Airee, MD Sunil Dhamala, Himanshu Dutta, Sushil Kandel, Kushal Bhurtel, Yogendra Karki, Sandeep Lamichhane, Ishan Pandey, Shankar Rana, Prem Tamang, Arif Sheikh, Sandeep Sunar, Dipesh Shrestha, Rajbir Singh.

Ninth-place playoff semifinal – Afghanistan U19 v New Zealand U19
Sheikh Kamal International Cricket Stadium Academy Ground, Cox’s Bazar

A chance to meet Zimbabwe in the ninth-place play-off awaits Afghanistan Under-19 and New Zealand Under-19 when they clash in Cox’s Bazar. Each side needs a win to finish in the top ten – the best they can hope for in the Plate Championship – and will be wary of the other side, especially given how comprehensively Zimbabwe Under-19 outclassed South Africa Under-19, the fallen defending champion.

On paper, New Zealand has the more balanced, well-rounded side. It didn’t quite click in the group stages, but the victories against Ireland Under-19 and Scotland Under-19 would have helped it find the gears.

Afghanistan, meanwhile, had an easy outing against Fiji Under-19, which didn’t really provide much of a test. There are suspicions about its batting against quality bowling – it has had a tendency to lose wickets in a heap – and the likes of Nathan Smith, Josh Finnie and Rachin Ravindra will provide a stern test.

For an Associate side, winning the Plate Championship would mean a great deal, especially if it came against a Full Member. Afghanistan is the only side with the chance to do that.

Teams (from)
Afghanistan U19:
Ihsanullah Janat (capt), Zia-ur-Rehman Akbar, Zahir Ahmadzai, Qais Hassan, Karim Janat, Ikram Ali Khail, Shamsurrahman Wali Khail, Zahir Khan, Muslim Musa, Nijat Masood, Parwiz Malikzai, Nasir Omar, Naveed Obaid, Waheed Shafaq, Tariq Stanikzai.

New Zealand U19: Josh Finnie (capt), Finnley Allen, Josh Clarkson, Zak Gibson, Christian Leopard, Felix Murray, Aniket Parikh, Dale Phillips, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Talor Scott, Ben Sears, Nathan Smith, Daniel Stanley, Ross ter Braak.