India will take on South Africa in the first semi-final of the 2024 ICC Under-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup in Benoni on Tuesday.
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.
The six-time champions have found consistent contributors both with the bat and ball, but it is their batting prowess that has stood out in the tournament. Remarkably, five different players from the team have notched up centuries to date at the tournament.
However, they have notfaced 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 World Cup.
The Proteas’ 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 top spot in the group stages.
Performance so far
Form guide (in the tournament): W W W W W
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 Tiwari recorded successive four-fors as India emerged victors by the same margin.
The Super Six stage then rolled around, and up against New Zealand, Khan showcased his brilliance with a second century, setting a target of 296. 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.
Form guide (in the tournament): W W L W W
The hosts started off their tournament with a thrilling win over West Indies in a closely contested match. Maphaka’s scintillating five-for trumped Jewel Andrew’s valiant ton as the Proteas won by 31 runs.
South Africa 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. Stolk smashed a fifty off just 13 balls, the fastest in U19 Men’s World Cup history and was well supported by Dewan Marais’s 50-ball 80.
In their first outing in the Super Six stage, 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 Lhaun-dre 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 Sri Lanka’s batting lineup, securing South Africa’s qualification and a blockbuster matchup against India in the semi-final with an emphatic 119-run victory.
Players to watch
Khan has been a revelation for India 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, Khan has also proved handy with the ball, scalping four wickets at an economy rate of 3.01.
Closely behind Khan in the list for most runs is captain Saharan with 308. A pillar in the middle order, he has momentum on his side after a century in the last game against Nepal.
It has been hard to keep 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 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 Stolk and 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.
India: Uday Saharan (C), Aravelly Avanish (wk), Adarsh Singh, Arshin Kulkarni, Musheer Khan, Priyanshu Moliya, Sachin Dhas, Murugan Abhishek, Naman Tiwari, Raj Limbani, Saumy Pandey.
South Africa: Juan James (C), Lhuan-dre Pretorius (wk), Steve Stolk, David Teeger, Richard Seletswane, Dewan Marais, Romashan Pillay, Riley Norton, Tristan Luus, Nqobani Mokoena, Kwena Maphaka.