There’s nowhere better to learn your trade as a young player than knock-out cricket and that is the test that awaits the emerging stars at the ongoing ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup in South Africa.
With a gripping group stage now complete, attention turns to the Plate and Super League (for bottom two and top two finishing teams respectively) where prizes will be dished out and teams will have to raise their game under pressure.
The top two teams from each of the four groups have advanced to the Super League. These are India, West Indies, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.
They are seeded into quarter-finals and it is winner-takes-all from the start.
The clash between reigning champions India and a gritty Australia, who came from nowhere to beat England and seal last-gasp progress, is particularly eye-catching and opens the Super League on 28 January.
India have made serene progress so far in the tournament, only briefly tested by New Zealand in the final group game. The batsmen have looked compact and in control, while the bowling load has been shouldered by leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi, who has taken 10 wickets so far in the event. The medium pacers have been quick but erratic, and it is a weakness Australia will look to exploit.
Red-hot West Indies
West Indies went three-from-three in Group B and they face New Zealand.
Nyeem Young (129 runs at 43) and Kevlon Anderson (128 runs at 64) have excelled with the bat for the Windies and Jayden Seales (eight wickets at 11.12) has proved a fine partnership-breaker.
2016 semi-finalists Bangladesh face hosts South Africa, who didn’t have it all their own way in the group stage but boast the tournament’s top run-scorer in Bryce Parsons (245 runs at 81.67).
There’s an all-subcontinent tussle as Afghanistan take on Pakistan, with Afghan leg-spinner Shafiqullah Ghafari the tournament’s most potent wicket-taker (11 wickets at 3.45).
For the winners, it’s straight through to the Super League semi-finals to fight for a place in the Potchefstroom final on 9 February.
Teams that lose in the Super League quarter-finals still have opportunities to showcase their talent, however, with the Super League playoff semi-finals leading to fifth and seventh placement matches.
Placement matches often produce scintillating cricket as players aim to make a lasting impression on the U19 World Cup. England’s Tom Banton struck a blistering century in the 2018 seventh-placed playoff.
The Plate League is structured in the same way as the Super League. Nations that finished third and fourth in the group stage are seeded into Plate quarter-finals.
Sri Lanka missed out on the Super League by a single point and came within two balls of beating New Zealand, so will be desperate to defend the Plate title they won in 2018 when they take on Nigeria.
England failed to make the last eight of the U19 World Cup for the first time and will aim to make amends against Japan, while UAE play Scotland and Zimbabwe face Canada.
Likewise, winners compete for the Plate semi-finals and a spot in the final, while the guarantee that all teams will be scheduled to play six matches comes with 11th, 13th and 15th-placed playoffs.
ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2020 Fixtures:
Plate Quarter-final 1: 27 January: Sri Lanka v Nigeria – Ibbies Oval, Potchefstroom
Plate Quarter-final 2: 27 January: England v Japan – Witrand Oval, Potchefstroom
Super League Quarter-final 1: 28 January: India v Australia – JB Marks Oval, Potchefstr
Plate Quarter-final 3: 28 January: Zimbabwe v Canada – Ibbies Oval, Potchefstroom
Plate Quarter-final 4: 28 January: United Arab Emirates v Scotland – Witrand Oval, Potchefstroom
Super League Quarter-final 2: 29 January: West Indies v New Zealand – Willowmoore Park, Benoni
Super League Quarter-final 3: 30 January: Bangladesh v South Africa – JB Marks Oval, Potchefstroom
Super League Quarter-final 4: 31 January: Afghanistan v Pakistan – Willowmoore Park, Benoni
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