Aus, England can't afford to be complacent
Three-time defending champion Australia and 1998 winner England are favourites to progress to the Super League stage from Group A of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2012, which will be staged in Queensland, Australia, from 11 to 26 August.
However, both the Full Member countries will need to be on top of their games and cannot afford to be complacent in the presence of Nepal and Ireland in their group.
Nepal is returning to the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2012 after missing out on the 2010 event. It finished second behind Scotland and one place ahead of Ireland in the 10-team ICC U19 Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2011, which was staged in Ireland.
Nepal's best performance came in the 2006 event in Sri Lanka where it defeated New Zealand in the final of the Plate Championship. In 2002 and 2008, Nepal lost the Plate Championship finals to Zimbabwe and the West Indies, respectively.
Ireland's U19 side has not been able to match the performance of its senior side, which has defeated Pakistan and England in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 and 2011, respectively. In the previous ICC U19 CWC 2010 event in New Zealand, Ireland finished 10th, while its best performance in this event has been in 1998 where it finished third in the Plate Championship.
When Ireland last played against Australia and England in this tournament, it turned out to be one-sided victories for the Full Member sides. Australia defeated Ireland by 209 runs in 2010 while in 2008 England beat Ireland by 10 wickets.
However, Ireland captain George Dockrell, who also played in the 2010 event, insisted his team was not a push-over. "I think when teams think about us, they no longer think we're a team that will give a walk-over. They know we'll give them a good fight and give them a good contest, and they need to be on their best game or else we will challenge them and potentially beat them.
"It's a strong group with a very strong English U19 team. Having an Australian team in Australia is also going to be extremely tough. But, all it will take is one win against one of those two," said the left-arm spinner.
Australia will not only be aiming to win its fourth U19 World Cup but will also be attempting to match Pakistan's achievement of winning back-to-back titles. Interestingly, all of Australia's three titles have come in familiar conditions as it won in 1988 in its backyard, and the remaining two in 2002 and 2010 in New Zealand.
Australia will be skippered by Will Bosisto, a middle-order batsman and an off-spin bowler while other star performers include South Australia's top order batsman Travis Head, who scored 219 runs in his four first-class matches in his debut season this year, and New South Wales' middle-order batsman Kurtis Patterson, who scored a smashing 157 against South Australia on his debut at the SCG in November last year.
Looking ahead to the group stage, Bosisto said: "We played a game against England in Townsville earlier this year, and I expect they'll be no different to how they were, they will be a good cricket side. We haven't come up against Nepal or Ireland yet, but we're expecting them to have a lot of talented players as well.
"The tournament opener against England will obviously be a massive game for us, and hopefully we can come out and be switched on right from the first game."
England, despite winning the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup only once in 1998, has produced some very solid performances over the years. It reached the semi-finals in 1988, 2004 and 2006, lost in the quarter-finals of the 2008 and 2010 events, while finished third and fourth in the Super League Stage in 2000 and 2002, respectively.
The England side will be led by Adam Ball who is a top-order batsman and has played nine first-class matches for English County side Kent.
Previewing Group A, Ball said: "We are very confident of being able to come out on top of our group, even with the presence of some tough opposition. All the teams will be tough to beat, especially Australia as they are in their own country and defending champions, but we back ourselves to beat them.
"The knockout stage of the tournament is when things start to get exciting and the teams that can absorb the most pressure and come out on top will be the most successful. However, we have got a very tough group to win first so we will take each game as it comes and prepare accordingly."
Australia - Will Bosisto (captain) Ashton Agar, Cameron Bancroft, Meyrick Buchanan, Harry Conway, Sam Hain, Travis Head, Joel Paris, Kurtis Patterson, Jimmy Peirson, Gurinder Sandhu, Mark Steketee, Nick Stevens, Ashton Turner and Jack Wildermuth.
England - Adam Ball (captain), Shozair Ali, Daniel Bell-Drummond, Ben Collins, Alex Davies, Ben Duckett, Ben Foakes, Brett Hutton, Aneesh Kapil, Tom Knight, Jamie Overton, Craig Overton, Reece Topley, Kishen Velani and Sam Wood.
Ireland - George Dockrell (captain), Scott Campbell, Peter Chase, Adam Coughlan, Shane Getkate, Ryan Hunter, Tyrone Kane, Robin Kelly, Andrew McBrine, Graeme McCarter, Barry McCarthy, Alistair Shields, Patrick Tice, Jason Van der Merwe and Ben Wylie
Nepal - Prithu Baskota (captain), Pradeep Airee, Naresh Budhaayer, Ramnaresh Giri, Mahamad Hasim Ansari, Bhuban Karki, Krishna Karki, Avinash Karn, Saurabh Khanal, Gopal Singh, Rahul Kumar Vishwakarma, Rajesh Pulani, Subash Khakurel, Sagar Pun and Fajlur Rahman.
Group A schedule:
*11 Aug - Australia v England, Tony Ireland Stadium, Townsville
12 Aug - England v Ireland, Endeavour Park 1, Townsville
*13 Aug - Australia v Nepal, Tony Ireland Stadium, Townsville
14 Aug - Australia v Ireland, Endeavour Park 2, Townsville
15 Aug - Ireland v Nepal, Endeavour Park 1, Townsville
*16 Aug - England v Nepal, Tony Ireland Stadium, Townsville
*denotes broadcast matches