If you thought the first week of the Under-19 World Cup was going to be boring, think again. There’s a very good chance that by Friday night, both the winner and runner-up of the 2002 competition might be finished for 2004.
Sixteen games in the first four days of competition, fourteen predictable results. Some of them quite comprehensive. Then on Wednesday, Nepal upset South Africa’s applecart, beating the 2002 finalists by one wicket with two balls to spare after earlier in the day having them on the ropes at 62 for 7.
It wasn’t Nepal’s first major upset at this level. In 2002 in New Zealand they defeated Pakistan by 30 runs, although it wasn’t enough to upset their opponents’ march into the second round.
Here, South Africa are in trouble. Presuming that Nepal beats Uganda later today, South Africa must defeat England on Friday and let a three-way tie on four points be sorted out by net run-rate.
The top two teams from each group qualify for the superleague, and at the moment it looks like Nepal might be joining England and the representatives from Group B.
But if South Africa’s applecart has been upset, Australia’s has had its wheels pulled off and all the fruit rolled down the hill. They didn’t just lose to Zimbabwe at the Bogra District Stadium on Wednesday – they were thrashed. Australia batted first and were bowled out for 73 in nineteen overs. Zimbabwe, despite losing both openers without scoring, completed a seven-wicket win with 32.5 overs to spare.
Remember two names from that Zimbabwean team: Tinashe Panyangara, and Elton Chigumbra. Seventeen year-old Panyangara took 6/31 from nine overs with his right-arm pace, while sixteen year-old Chigumbra, another right-arm seamer, took 4/17 from five overs.
Zimbabwe gave Sri Lanka a tough time on Sunday before losing by two wickets. Australia, who beat Canada by four wickets on Monday, have to beat Sri Lanka on Friday if they’re going to make it through to the second round. Even Canada beating Zimbabwe today won’t save Australia if they can’t win that one, and it will still come down to net run-rate if Australia and Zimbabwe both win.
In 2002, Australia beat South Africa by seven wickets to win the final of the ICC U19 World Cup. This time, it could well be that the two teams will be facing off at some stage in the Plate Championship (for the eight teams eliminated after the first round).
Group D is settled already, with Ireland and Papua New Guinea now unable to prevent Pakistan and the West Indies from going through to the superleague. The West Indies had a scare on Monday when Ireland came within six runs of victory, but they made amends with a thumping 152-run win over Papua New Guinea yesterday. PNG have not had a happy time of this tournament so far, even allowing for their minnow status, having being dismissed for 60 by Pakistan on Sunday.
It’s worth noting that Uganda (who were bowled out for 46 by England on Tuesday) and Papua New Guinea both qualified for this World Cup ahead of Kenya – a fact that is bound to hurt the Kenyan push for ICC full membership status.
Group C is the glamour group of the first round. Tournament favourites India, whose matches are the only ones being televised in the first week of competition, look safe for a superleague spot after a massive win over Scotland on Monday and then a 69-run victory over New Zealand yesterday. Host nation Bangladesh will only have a chance of advancing if they can overcome their neighbours at Bangabandhu National Stadium on Friday. New Zealand should have no trouble with Scotland today, and that should be enough to see them through to the superleague round.
So at this stage, I am picking the final eight as: Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe from Group A, England and Nepal from Group B, India and New Zealand from Group C, and Pakistan and the West Indies from Group D.
And won’t they love that in Kathmandu.