In pursuit of glory: South Africa U19s ‘relishing the occasion’ of a home U19 World Cup semi-final

Former South Africa spinner and current U19 bowling coach, Paul Adams, feels that playing the semi-final of an ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup on home soil is a great occasion for his side.

By Garima Srivastava in Benoni

In the history of the tournament, South Africa have won the title only once in 2014 under the leadership of current star batter Aiden Markram. They finished as runners-up in 2002 and 2008, and reached the semi-finals in 1998 and 2012. 

It is only for the third time that South Africa are hosting the tournament, presenting a golden opportunity for the Junior Proteas to secure their first-ever title win on home soil.

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“The South African camp is very excited to be playing a semi-final in their country,” remarked U19 bowling coach Paul Adams in an exclusive interview with ICC Digital.

“It's a great occasion and I think one where every boy that is playing here and everyone that's involved is relishing the occasion.”

South Africa will be facing India in the first semi-final at Benoni’s Willowmoore Park on Tuesday, 6 February. India have won this competition on a record five occasions and are also the defending champions, having claimed the title after beating England by four wickets in Antigua in 2022.

In this edition too, India enter the semi-final stage with an unbeaten streak, having won every game during the Group Stage and Super Sixes.

Adams admitted that the team has kept a close eye on their opposition and they are prepared to enter the big clash with the label of 'underdogs.'

“Yeah, we had a look at India, how they've been playing, how they've gone through the tournament. So, they look unchallenged, and it (semi-final) is going to be a pressure game,” he said.

“Have they (India) been put under pressure? We played them in the tri-series before the World Cup and also there was not much pressure on them, but we've had moments where we've looked and seen that we were playing well up against them. So all expectations are up for India. We'll come in as underdogs and look to play hard up against them,” he added.

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Adams highlighted India’s impressive accuracy with which they bowled in both the Group and Super Six stages in Bloemfontein, emphasising the need for his players to tackle their opponents' bowling strategies, highlighting the batting friendly conditions of Benoni.

“I think they (India) bowled well in Bloemfontein in their pool games and they've been very accurate,” Adams said.

“So, for me, that shows a lot of predictability on how they bowl, and it's us for to understand how we're going to score off their accurate bowling, and their good balls and make sure we just get into good positions and we look to to stick it over. Benoni wicket is generally a good one-day wicket, good for scoring as well."

India have an effective spin-bowler in Saumy Pandey, who has taken most wickets for the Asian side so far with 16 scalps at 6.62. He has claimed four-wicket hauls thrice in the tournament and has been one of the most damaging bowlers, consistently taking wickets.

Despite the threat that Pandey possesses, Adams admitted that his team is more focused on dealing with the skills of the opposition’s bowlers collectively rather than one individual.

“I think their general spin attack is quite good. They offer off-spin and left-arm spin. So that's going to be the options we look at, we don't really look at the individual, just more with the skill and what they bring, and then make sure our batters are planning and visualising who they're up against and make sure they understand the spaces they need to hit and also where their boundary options are if they get stuck," Adams said.

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Getting an opportunity to be a part of the Proteas U19s, Adams shared that the best part of his job is working with the young talents and watching their growth.

“My aspect of coaching is I enjoy seeing young men growing the game," Adams said.

They are like sponges, they absorb every information and that gives me a lot of joy and you see them grow and just get better and better and get to their full potential. Some of them are only 17-18, at the start of their cricketing journey and we just are here along the way, just advising and see where they go.”

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