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26 January 201616:42

Heavyweight England begins strong favourite

Semi-finalist of last edition kicks off Group C campaign against debutant Fiji

Heavyweight England begins strong favourite - Cricket News

Dan Lawrence, the opener, finished as the team’s highest run-scorer in the tri-series in Sri Lanka with 132 runs from four matches.

Heavyweight England will take on debutant Fiji in a Group C encounter of the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2016 at the MA Aziz Stadium in Chittagong on Wednesday (January 27).

The biennial 16-nation tournament features nine Test-playing nations and seven qualifiers from the Associate and Affiliate Members – Afghanistan, Canada, Fiji, Namibia, Nepal, Ireland and Scotland. Teams have been divided into four groups with the top two in each advancing to the Super League quarterfinals and the bottom two battling for the Plate Championship.

England, which reached the semi-final of the 2014 edition in the United Arab Emirates, will be keen to end an 18-year drought after winning its only title in 1998 in South Africa. It will be led by Brad Taylor, an off-spinning all-rounder from Hampshire who is one of nine players in the squad to have played county cricket at the senior level.

England’s preparation, however, has been far from ideal, having lost all its matches in the tri-series involving Sri Lanka and India in Colombo in December last year. In the two warm-up fixtures ahead of the World Cup, England romped to a 155-run win against Namibia, but went down by 95 runs against Bangladesh.

Taylor, who was appointed captain just ahead of the tournament in Sri Lanka, acknowledged that the tri-series helped England acclimatise to sub-continental conditions.

“The tri-series was really important for us,” he said. “Conditions in Bangladesh are going to be very different from what we’re used to in England, so that allowed us to acclimatise to similar conditions and pitches. We improved with every game we played, and learned lots of lessons.”

England’s batting will be led by Dan Lawrence, the opener who finished as the team’s highest run-scorer in the tri-series in Sri Lanka with 132 runs from four matches. Rated very highly on the county circuit, Lawrence, who has played seven first-class matches, became the youngest first-class centurion for Essex when he made 161 against Surrey in April 2015.

Along with Lawrence, England will need Max Holden, the other opener, to provide a solid platform at the start. The duo had put on a 151-run opening stand against Namibia, but couldn’t replicate that feat against Bangladesh.

When the chips were down in the second warm-up game, Taylor led from the front with a gritty 41, and his experience would be crucial in the middle order.

Sam Curran, the fast-bowling all-rounder, will lead the bowling attack with Saqib Mahmood, the right-arm pacer. Against Namibia, Curran starred with an impressive 5 for 10 in just eight overs. Lawrence and Taylor are likely to share the spinning duties.

It will be Fiji’s maiden U-19 World Cup appearance, having won the East Asia-Pacific Under-19 Cricket Trophy in New Zealand. It has retained as many as 13 players from that win.

In the first warm-up match, against defending champion South Africa, Fiji hurtled to a 283-run loss after being buried under a massive 333-run target. However, Fiji will have taken heart from its performance against Scotland, even though it lost by 21 runs in the second warm-up fixture. Its bowlers restricted Scotland to 192 before the batsmen put up a respectable 171 in 31.3 overs.

Saimoni Tuitoga, the Fiji captain, was understandably excited at the prospect of playing in a world event, but was also relieved that the being the debutant, there would be little expectation from his side.

“We are honoured to be the first to represent the nation in a cricket World Cup. It’s not going to be easy but we know this opportunity is one that should not be taken for granted and we want to make sure that we push the tier one nations,” said Tuitoga. “For our families, our coaches and for us, we want to make sure that we fight through to the end and at least try and win two of our three group matches. The underdog tag relieves a lot of pressure and expectation from us.”

Shane Jurgensen, the Fiji head coach, is no stranger to Bangladesh, and his experience will be of immense help.

Delaimatuku Maraiwai, the opener, top-scored with 127 runs in the East Asia-Pacific U-19 Trophy, and scored a brisk fifty in the warm-up match against Scotland. Fiji would be hoping for Maraiwai to continue his good form.

Fiji has a stern test ahead of it, and it will be a dream start if it comes out with flying colours on Wednesday.

Teams (from):
Brad Taylor (capt), George Bartlett, Jack Burnham, Mason Crane, Sam Curran, Ryan Davies, Aneurin Donald, George Garton, Ben Green, Max Holden, Dan Lawrence, Saqib Mahmood, Tom Moores (wk), Callum Taylor, Jared Warner.

Fiji: Saimoni Tuitoga (capt,wk), Josaia Baleicikoibia, Malakai Cokovaki, Petero Cabebula, Jack Charters, Jordan Dunham, Vaibhav Kapadia, Delaimatuku Maraiwai, Ledua Qionivoka, Samuel Saunokonoko, Cakacaka Tikoisuva, Peni Vuniwaqa, Sosiceni Weleilakeba, Tuwai Yabaki.