ICC U19 Men’s WC: India's batting power will be tested against South Africa in first semifinal (preview)

February 5, 2024
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It may turn out to be a direct clash between India's batting might and South Africa's strength in bowling when the defending champions take on the hosts in the first semifinal of the ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2024

Benoni (South Africa), Feb 5 (IANS) It may turn out to be a direct clash between India’s batting might and South Africa’s strength in bowling when the defending champions take on the hosts in the first semifinal of the ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2024 here on Tuesday.

After 38 matches and 16 days since the start of the ICC Men’s U19 Cricket World Cup 2024, four teams now remain in contention for the coveted title.

India have been a force throughout the tournament so far, not only winning each of their five matches but also dominating their opponents with three of their wins coming by a margin of over 200 runs.

India have found consistent contributors both with the bat and ball, but it is their batting prowess that has stood out in the tournament. Remarkably, four players have notched up five centuries to date for India in the tournament with Musheer Khan hitting two 100-plus scores. The others who hit centuries for India U19 in this tournament are Sachin Dhas, skipper Uday Sharan and Arshin Kulkarni.

However, they might not have faced a bowling attack of South Africa’s calibre yet, which is spearheaded by the tournament’s top wicket-taker, Kwena Maphaka. The left-arm pacer has effortlessly dismantled opposing batting lineups, claiming three five-wicket hauls along the way. India will, however, take confidence from the fact that they successfully negated him in the tri-series preceding the U19 Men’s CWC.

The Prteas’ opening batters, Steve Stolk and Lhuan-dre Pretorius, have showcased exceptional form, leading the charge for South Africa.

South Africa have only stumbled once in the tournament – against England in the group stages. But the hosts have momentum on their side with dominant victories thereafter – among their highlights has been their explosive chase of 273 runs for victory in 27 overs against Scotland to secure the top spot in the group stages.

INDIA IN TOP FORM

India commenced their tournament with a commanding 84-run victory over Bangladesh, led by Saumy Pandey’s impressive four-wicket haul.

In the following match against Ireland, Musheer Khan’s century propelled India beyond the 300-run mark, with Naman Tiwari contributing a four-wicket haul for a resounding 201-run win.

The momentum continued as the defending champions breached 300 runs once more, this time against the USA. Opener Arshin Kulkarni passed three figures this time before Naman recorded successive four-fors as India emerged victors by the same margin.

The Super Six stage then rolled around, and up against New Zealand, Musheer Khan showcased his brilliance with a second century, setting a target of 296. Saumy Pandey’s four wickets dismantled any hope of a chase, as the Blackcaps were bowled out for just 81.

Centuries from captain Uday Saharan and Sachin Dhas laid the foundation for a big total of 297/5 in their final Super Six match against Nepal. Pandey’s left-arm spin wreaked havoc once again, leading to a 131-run victory as India punched their tickets to the semi-finals.

HOSTS LOST ONLY ONE GAME

South Africa started off their tournament with a thrilling win over West Indies in a closely contested match. Kwena Maphaka’s scintillating five-for trumped Jewel Andrew’s valiant ton as the Proteas won by 31 runs.

The hosts then suffered their first and only defeat, losing out against England by 36 runs (DLS) in a rain-truncated match.

However, they bounced back in style by chasing 273 in 27 overs against Scotland. Steve Stolk smashed a fifty off just 13 balls, the fastest in U19 Men’s CWC history and was well supported by Dewan Marais’s 50-ball 80.

In their first outing in the Super Six stage, Kwena Maphaka’s second five-wicket haul restricted Zimbabwe to a lowly 102. South Africa launched another explosive chase to secure a comfortable win in just 13.3 overs, with Pretorius contributing a quickfire half-century.

In their final Super Six game, Sri Lanka’s bowling posed a challenge, restricting the hosts to a modest 232 runs. However, Maphaka’s outstanding six-wicket haul tore through the Islanders’ batting lineup, securing South Africa’s qualification and a blockbuster matchup against India in the semi-final with an emphatic 119-run victory.

ALL EYES ON MUSHEER

While India has shown its batting might, all eyes will be on Musheer Khan, who has been a revelation for the defending champions in the tournament so far, leading the run-scoring charts with 334 runs at an impressive strike rate of 103.72. Beyond his batting prowess, Musheer has also proved handy with the ball, scalping four wickets at an economy rate of 3.01.

Closely behind Musheer in the list for most runs is captain Uday Saharan with 308. A pillar in the middle-order, Uday has momentum on his side after a century in the last game against Nepal.

It has been hard to keep Saumy Pandey out of any game in the tournament to date, with the left-arm spinner bagging at least three wickets in four of the five games so far.

Currently third in the wicket-takers list with 16 wickets, Pandey will be looking to climb to the top but the brilliant Kwena Maphaka stands in his way at the summit of the bowling charts with 18.

The left-arm quick has earned plaudits from some of the greats of the game for his speed and ability to move the ball early.

Among the Proteas batters, the responsibility will primarily rest on the shoulders of openers Steve Stolk and Lhaun-dre Pretorius to provide a strong start for South Africa. Stolk has taken the tournament by storm, his 214 runs coming at a blazing strike rate of 148.6. Together with Pretorius, the pair have added 360 runs, the highest for any pair in the tournament, at a stunning strike rate of 141.2.

As the ICC Men’s U19 Cricket World Cup 2024 reaches its business end, the clash between India and South Africa promises to be a riveting encounter, with Willowmoore Park in Benoni the stage on which the action will unfold.

Predicted XIs:

India U19: Adarsh Singh, Arshin Kulkarni, Musheer Khan, Uday Saharan (C), Priyanshu Moliya, Sachin Dhas, Aravelly Avanish (wk), Murugan Abhishek, Naman Tiwari, Raj Limbani, Saumy Pandey.

South Africa U19: Lhuan-dre Pretorius (wk), Steve Stolk, David Teeger, Richard Seletswane, Dewan Marais, Romashan Pillay, Juan James (C), Riley Norton, Tristan Luus, Nqobani Mokoena, Kwena Maphaka.

–IANS

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