Bangladesh will look to bring their fine form over recent years to the big stage in Group C of the U19 Cricket World Cup. They will be led by captain Akbar Ali who has already declared his side can not only progress from a group containing Pakistan, Scotland and Zimbabwe but also go on to win the entire tournament.
Ali, a wicket-keeper batsman, is one of several potential stars of the future in a side which has set a high standard in the current generation.
Bangladesh have won 18 of their last 30 games in a run which includes series wins over New Zealand and Sri Lanka and three victories on English soil. In Towhid Hridoy and Mahmudul Hasan Joy they possess the only players to score more than 1,000 runs at U19 level since the last tournament two years ago. Shoriful Islam, Mrittunjoy Chowdhury and Tanzim Hasan Sakib will also provide ample assistance with the ball as the three leading wicket-takers at this level.
Pakistan, meanwhile, will be without Test international Naseem Shah but they won’t be short of talent, with Qasim Akram and Aamir Ali two stars of the future to watch out for. Topping the averages in his country’s one-day youth competition last year, Akram’s batting will be something to behold in South Africa – while his right-arm off-break bowling is set to be a handy tool in the tournament, too.
Ali has similarly impressed, progressing into first-class cricket having taken 17 wickets in nine youth-level matches, with the left-arm spinner holding Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath as his sporting inspiration. But one of the most exciting players to watch in the entire tournament could be Mohammad Shehzad, with the opening batsman set to become one of the youngest to ever play in the ICC U19 World Cup.
Chair of Pakistan’s junior selection committee, Saleem Jaffar, believes the squad has the right make up to do well at the tournament.
“Criteria for selection was current performances and meritocracy, and I am pleased it was a consensus decision. These players have been performing up to our expectations and I am hopeful they will carry their good form into the series and produce solid performances,” he said.
Zimbabwe will be hoping to improve on their showing at the 2018 World Cup in New Zealand which saw them win just one of their group games. They will be captained by Dion Myers, while Wesley Madhevere adds experience to their ranks having played in the U19 World Cup on two previous occasions.
Former senior national team captain Prosper Utseya is set to coach Zimbabwe and will see his side get their tournament underway in the group’s first game against Bangladesh. Their squad also boasts a multi-talented youngster in the form of former U17 national team footballer Taurayi Tugwete.
Zimbabwe’s final Group C match will see them face Scotland, who return to the U19 World Cup after an absence in 2018. A breakthrough into the upper echelons has yet to come their way but Gordon Drummond insists the side are relishing the chance to cause a few upsets in a challenging group.
“The squad is excited to take part in the upcoming U19 Cricket World Cup in South Africa. It is a tough group but one which also represents the chance to take a few Full Member scalps,” Scotland’s U19 coach said.
“They (the players) have trained hard all winter and are looking forward to the outdoor preparation in Dubai leading into the tournament. The players have set themselves some targets which if they can play with skill and belief, we know they can certainly achieve.”
Group C fixtures: 18 January: Bangladesh v Zimbabwe – JB Marks Oval, Potchefstroom; 19 January: Pakistan v Scotland – North West University Oval, Potchefstroom; 21 January: Bangladesh v Scotland – Witrand Oval, Potchefstroom; 22 January: Pakistan v Zimbabwe – Witrand Oval, Potchefstroom; 24 January: Pakistan v Bangladesh – JB Marks Oval, Potchefstroom; 25 January: Zimbabwe v Scotland – Witrand Oval – Potchefstroom.