In perhaps the pick of the opening round matches at the 2018 ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup, New Zealand, the hosts, take on West Indies, the defending champions, at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui at 2pm on Saturday (13 January). There is a lot riding on this Group A clash, what with South Africa and Kenya being the other teams in the pool, making it one of the toughest of the four groups. A good start is imperative for both sides.
In the previous World Cup in Bangladesh in 2016, New Zealand struggled considerably, falling to get past the group stages and finishing 12th in the 16-team tournament. The home conditions should benefit them, but they will have to bear the weight of expectation, and come up against a West Indies side who have looked more than capable of defending the title their predecessors won thrillingly in 2016.
This should be a cracker.
West Indies eased to victory in their only warm-up match against Papua New Guinea (PNG). They bundled out PNG for 105, with all of Jeavor Royal, Alick Athanaze and Ashmead Nedd claiming two wickets each. Bhaskar Yadram then scored a 23-ball unbeaten 37 as West Indies sauntered to a seven-wicket win.
New Zealand had a tougher outing against Zimbabwe. Kaylum Boshier, the captain, and Todd Watson scored half-centuries to arrest slides and help boost the total to 220. Zimbabwe were then restricted to 168, with Kaylum Boshier again contributing with figures of 3/17.
Going further back, the West Indies side also found success in bilateral tours of South Africa and Zimbabwe in July, winning both series. Nine of that 15-strong touring party are part of the World Cup squad. New Zealand, meanwhile, have experience to count on this time around, with four players from their 2016 campaign retained for this tournament.
Player to watch
Kaylum Boshier (NZ)
In the warm-up against Zimbabwe, the New Zealand captain displayed all the qualities that prompted the selectors to adjudge him the leader of the pack. There was a fighting 113-ball 66 after Zimbabwe had 7/2 and then 98/5, before dismantling Zimbabwe’s middle order with his medium pace. Boshier was picked as captain after he expertly skippered Central Districts in the National U19 tournament. He was also captain of their Under 17 side, and is, seemingly, a born leader. Containing him will be foremost among West Indies’ priorities.
Jeavor Royal (WI)
The left-arm spinner was one of the big reasons why West Indies won the bilateral series in South Africa and Zimbabwe. He took 12 wickets on tour, ending as joint-highest wicket-taker along with Joshua Bishop, who has been named in the reserves. In his six overs in the warm-up match against PNG, he claimed two wickets and conceded just four runs, for an economy rate of just 0.66. New Zealand’s approach to him could be a decisive factor.
World Cup history
New Zealand are yet to win the U19 Cricket World Cup. The last time it was played in these shores, they came close, losing in the quarter-finals to eventual champions Australia. The highest they have ever placed is in 1998, when they were runners up to England. They have, however, benefitted hugely from the tournament, with a huge number of the current senior setup – Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor and Tom Latham among them – graduating from the Under 19 side. This is the third time the tournament has been held in New Zealand, and if clichés are to be believed, this is their lucky year.
In Bangladesh two years back, West Indies saw off India in a tense finale to win the tournament for the first time. The best they had fared till then was in 2004, when they were runners up to Pakistan. From that 2016 title-winning side, the likes of Shimron Hetmyer and Alzzari Joseph have graduated to the senior level.
Head to head
For teams of their stature, West Indies and New Zealand have clashed surprisingly few times at this level, having contested just three Under 19 ODIs so far. West Indies won the first two, but the third and the most recent clash in 2012, was won by New Zealand. The tense three-wicket win involved the likes of Kraigg Brathwaite and Ish Sodhi, now established internationals.
Rain is forecast in Tauranga for most of the coming week. Play will surely be affected, but it’s hope that the skies open up to mild showers rather than violent downpours, allowing for the match to play to a result.
New Zealand: Kaylum Boshier (c), Finn Allen, Jakob Bhula, Max Chu, Katene Clarke, Matthew Fisher, Luke Georgeson, Ben Lockrose, Callum McLachlan, Felix Murray, Sandeep Patel, Dale Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Connor Sullivan, Todd Watson.
West Indies: Emmanuel Stewart (c), Kirstan Kallicharan (vc), Ronaldo Alimohammed, Alick Athanaze, Cephas Cooper, Jarion Hoyte, Kimani Melius, Ashmead Nedd, Kian Pemberton, Raymond Perez, Joshua Persaud, Jeavor Royal, Keagan Simmons, Bhaskar Yadram, Nyeem Young.