U19 CWC semis: Australia, SA favourites
Three-time former champion Australia and two-time runner-up South Africa will be the favoruites to advance to the semi-finals of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup (CWC) UAE 2014 when they feature in Sunday's quarter-finals.
Australia, which won the title in 1988, 2000 and 2010, will take on 2004 finalist West Indies in front of Star Sports cameras at Dubai International Cricket Stadium, while South Africa, losing finalists in 2002 and 2008, will travel to Sharjah Cricket Stadium where it will square-off against underdog Afghanistan whose best result in the previous two appearances has been a 10th position in the 2012 tournament in Townsville, Australia.
The winners of Sunday's quarter-finals will lock horns in the second semi-final at Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Wednesday.
Australia v West Indies
Both the sides will come into the quarter-final after having lost a group match each. Australia was upset by Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi by 36 runs while the West Indies lost to South Africa on the opening day of the tournament by 94 runs.
However, Australia dominates the West Indies in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup having won all its past six matches. It won by 73 runs in 1988, 71 runs in 1998, four wickets in 2000, 42 runs (in the league match) and 93 runs (in the semi-final) in 2002 and 13 runs in 2006.
In the three matches, Australia's Jake Doran and Matthew Short have been the in-form batsmen, having so far scored 164 and 137 runs, respectively. Fast bowler James Bazley with six wickets has been the most successful Australia bowler, though Ben Ashkenazi showed glimpses of his brilliance when he took a hat-trick in the must-win match against Bangladesh.
For the West Indies, Tagenarine Chanderpaul with 177 runs is the lead run-getter from his side. Nicolas Pooran with 106 runs is the other West Indies batsman to reach three figures. Jay Jordan with seven wickets has so far enjoyed a good run with the ball, while Jerome Jones and captain Ramaal Lewis have claimed five wickets apiece.
Australia captain Alex Gregory, looking ahead to Sunday's match, said: "It's good to get through the group stages and we're looking forward to taking on the West Indies.
"We'll look to maintain our discipline with the bat and ball, particularly winning the middle overs, and at this stage we're taking every game as it comes.
"We started off well against Namibia with a strong win and hit a speed bump against Afghanistan, but I thought we held together well as a team to handle the pressure and record a good win against Bangladesh to get us through to the quarter finals."
Ashkenazi, talking about his hat-trick which was the second in the tournament after India's Kuldeep Yadav and the third overall, said: "I was looking to bowl straight, full and on the stumps. I've been on quite a few hat-tricks, though I've never really got one. So, I was looking forward to it and eventually got one."
West Indies captain Lewis admitted his side will have to be at the top of its game to overcome Australia: "Australia was the runner-up last year and it has been doing well in youth cricket over a period of time now. We will have to do our best to win against them.
"You can't take anything for granted now, every team is tough so you have to go to try and win each game," said Lewis.
South Africa v Afghanistan
The focus will be on Afghanistan when it takes the field against South Africa in the familiar territory of Sharjah. The senior Afghan boys will feature in next month's ICC World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014 and have also made history by qualifying for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. These facts will provide impetus to the young guns which defeated Australia last week and then blazed to victory against Namibia by four wickets when it achieved the 192-run target inside 26 overs with 130 runs coming off boundaries.
With nothing to lose, the Afghan lads are likely to play their natural game and hope for a favourable result.
But, South Africa cannot be taken lightly as it seems to be the side which has all its bases covered.
In Yaseen Valli, South Africa has a batsman who has impressed everyone with his patience, shot selection and range of strokes. He has so far scored 208 runs with a century and two half-centuries. Captain Aiden Markram struck form at the right time when he scored 120 not out against Zimbabwe in the final league match. In the bowling department, fast bowler Justin Dill has shown a lot of promise and fire, and has taken six wickets so far, while Yalli has complemented his 208 runs with six wickets. Left-arm fast bowler Kagiso Rabada has been impressive though he has managed only five wickets to date.
In the ICC Cricket World Cup, South Africa has played 49 matches and has won 34 and lost 14. In contrast, Afghanistan has won only four of its 12 matches to date.
Markram, looking ahead to the match against Afghanistan, said: "None of the games so far have been easy but I would say the match against the West Indies was the toughest as it bowled really well and took us by surprise.
"The tournament is open and any team can progress. It's about which team performs on the day.
"The eight teams that have made it to the quarter-finals are probably the sides that have played the most consistent cricket so far. They all deserve to be here and we can't take any team for granted.
"The quest for the elusive world title doesn't put us under any pressure, in fact, it motivates us a little bit more to try and achieve it. We're all trying to learn from this experience and I think if we play to our standards, the results will take care of themselves."
Afghanistan captain Nasir Jamal hoped his boys will carry the momentum in the forthcoming matches. "We were thrilled to beat Australia as the conditions in the UAE favoured our side and then we also had better spinners.
"South Africa is a good side and has not lost a match. We will go into our quarter-final against it with the same mindset that we had against Australia, and if we maintain the same momentum and play with controlled aggression, then we are hopeful of reaching the semi-finals."
Teams (to be selected from):
Afghanistan - Nasir Jamal (captain), Abdullah Adil, Fareed Malik, Hashmatullah Shaidi, Ihsanullah Janat, Mohammad Mujtaba, Munir Ahmad, Muslim Musa, Sayed Shirzad, Sayed Waheedullah Shafaq, Shahidullah Kamal, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Usman Ghani, Younas Khan Ahmadzai, Zia-ur-Rehman Akbar
South Africa - Aiden Markram (captain), Bradley Bopp, Corbin Bosch, Dirk Bruwer, Kirwin Christoffels, Justin Dill, Clyde Fortuin, Dayyaan Galiem, Sibonelo Makhanya, Greg Oldfield, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Ngazibini Sigwili, Jason Smith, Yaseen Valli
Umpires - S. Ravi and Enamul Hoque-Moni
TV Umpire - Chris Gaffaney
Fourth Umpire - Shaun George
Match Referee - Chris Broad
Australia - Thomas Andrews, Ben Ashkenazi, James Bazley, Jake Doran, Matthew Fotia, Alex Gregory, Ben McDermott, Jaron Morgan, Damien Mortimer, Matthew Short, Kelvin Smith, Billy Stanlake, Cameron Valente, Guy Walker, Sean Willis
West Indies - Ramaal Lewis (captain), Fabian Allen, Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Bryan Charles, Tristan Coleman, Jonathan Drakes, Shimron Hetmyer, Jerome Jones, Ray Jordan, Brandon King, Preston McSween, Marquino Mindley, Gudakesh Motie, Nicolas Pooran, Jeremy Solozano
Umpires - Simon Fry and Rob Bailey
Third Umpire - Ranmore Martinesz
Match Referee - Graeme La Brooy
Sunday's fixtures (quarter-finals, both matches start at 0930)
South Africa v Afghanistan, Sharjah Cricket Stadium; *Australia v West Indies, Dubai International Cricket Stadium
UAE v Scotland, Zayed Cricket Stadium; New Zealand v PNG, Abu Dhabi Oval 1
*denotes broadcast matches
(Posted on 22-02-2014)