ICC: Eclectic mix of competitors make Group B intriguing

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Photo Credit: ICC

With South Africa, the hosts, being joined by 2022 finalists England, the 2016 champions West Indies, and a spirited Scotland side, Group B of the ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup has the potential to thrill.

They begin in Potchefstroom with South Africa taking on West Indies on opening day (19 January) before neighbours Scotland and England clash the next day.

Here’s a comprehensive look at the group, and some of the future stars to watch out for:

England

England came tantalisingly close to claiming the U19 Men’s CWC trophy in the previous edition, only to stumble in the final against India. It meant the quest for their second U19 World Cup silverware has eluded them since their maiden win back in 1998.

The responsibility now falls on Ben McKinney to propel the team further than their last attempt and shatter the U19 World Cup drought that has persisted for almost three decades.

England has spared no effort in their preparations, travelling to Australia and India in the past year to fine-tune their skills for the upcoming tournament.

Squad

Ben McKinney (c), Luc Benkenstein, Farhan Ahmed, Tazeem Ali, Charlie Allison, Charlie Barnard, Jack Carney, Jaydn Denly, Eddie Jack, Dominic Kelly, Sebastian Morgan, Haydon Mustard, Hamza Shaikh, Noah Thain, Theo Wylie

Fixtures

20 January: v Scotland, Potchefstroom

23 January: v South Africa, Potchefstroom

26 January: v West Indies, Potchefstroom

Watch out for

Hamza Shaikh

England’s Hamza Shaikh has enjoyed a stellar year in junior cricket. Since the last U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup, no England player has scored more runs than Hamza.

In just eight matches, the 17-year-old has amassed 508 runs at an average of 63.50 and a strike-rate of close to 95. He has scored two centuries during that run, both of which came against Bangladesh when England toured India for a Quadrangular series in November.

Adding to his value, Shaikh brings valuable experience from playing List A cricket for Warwickshire, presenting a significant asset for the England side heading into the upcoming U19 World Cup.

His remarkable run-scoring ability and seasoned exposure at a high level will make him a key player to watch in the tournament.

What they said

Ben McKinney, England captain: “We want to enjoy and showcase our skills and impose ourselves on each and every game, with an overall aim to go on and to win the tournament.”

South Africa

South Africa’s recent performances leading up to the U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2024 has been inconsistent, securing only three wins in nine games since 2023.

Nonetheless, the advantage of home support and familiarity with conditions could serve as decisive factors for the Proteas in their quest for the title.

Kagiso Rabada and Aiden Markram were the stars of their last and only U19 World Cup triumph in 2014.

In familiar conditions, the onus is on the hosts to repeat the feat.

Squad

Juan James, Martin Khumalo, Tristan Luus, Kwena Maphaka, Dewan Marias, Riley Norton, Nqobani Mokoena, David Teeger, Romashan Pillay, Sipho Potsane, Lhuan-dre Pretorius, Richard Seletswane, Oliver Whitehead, Steve Stolk, Ntando Zuma

Fixtures

19 January: v West Indies, Potchefstroom

23 January: v England, Potchefstroom

27 January: v Scotland, Potchefstroom

Watch out for

Kwena Maphaka

Kwena Maphaka stands out as one of the shining stars for the South Africa U19 team since the last World Cup.

In his first outing in 2023, Maphaka picked up a four-for against Bangladesh and has since gone from strength to strength.

In his last seven U19 matches, the youngster has scalped 17 wickets, including the career-best five-for in his most recent against Afghanistan.

Displaying promising potential, the 17-year-old has already embarked on his journey in domestic cricket, showcasing versatility by participating in all three formats in South Africa.

What they said

Malibongwe Maketa, South Africa head coach: “Even though we know there will be expectation because we are playing at home, we want to embrace that pressure, we want to play good cricket and reward the people that come support us.”

West Indies

Much like South Africa, the West Indies also harbour hopes of securing their second U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup trophy. Their sole triumph came in 2016, coinciding with the year the West Indies achieved a World Cup treble, securing victories in the senior Men’s and Women’s T20 World Cups.

However, the Windies have faced challenges in subsequent editions. Their performances in 2018 and 2022 fell short, as they failed to advance to the knockout stages, finishing in 10th and 11th place respectively.

Eager to recapture the glory of 2016, this West Indies side will be determined to make a formidable impact in the upcoming tournament and bring home another U19 Men’s CWC title.

Squad

Stephan Pascal (c), Nathan Sealy, Jewel Andrew, Mavendra Dindyal, Joshua Dorne, Nathan Edward, Tarrique Edward, Reon Edwards, Deshawn James, Jordan Johnson, Divonie Joseph, Raneico Smith, Isai Thorne, Steve Wedderburn, Adrian Weir

Fixtures

19 January: v South Africa, Potchefstroom

24 January: v Scotland, Potchefstroom

26 January: v England, Potchefstroom

Watch out for

Jordan Johnson

Jordan Johnson is set for a second opportunity at the upcoming U19 Men’s CWC, having previously represented the West Indies in the 2022 edition.

In his four appearances in the last tournament, he showcased glimpses of his talent by scoring 69 runs at an average of 23. He gave a glimpse of his talent with a gritty 47 against Sri Lanka.

Jordan has been in good touch recently, emerging as the highest run-scorer for the West Indies during their comprehensive tour of Sri Lanka, which included both ODIs and Tests.

What they said

Stephan Pascal, West Indies captain: “Over the years this has been the stepping-stone for many young players to launch their careers, so we all see this as a golden opportunity to perform on the world stage and do great things for the West Indies.”

Scotland

Scotland face a challenging prospect in a group featuring three international powerhouses. That said, the absence of excessive pressure might play to their advantage as they aim to reverse their fortunes in the U19 Men’s CWC 2024.

The 2022 edition was a forgettable one for Scotland as they finished 14th out of 16 teams, failing to secure victory in their group games in the West Indies.

However, under the leadership of Owen Gould, the team can draw confidence from their stellar performance in the Qualifiers. Dominating the competition, they comfortably secured a berth for the U19 Men’s CWC, indicating a potential turnaround in their form.

The experience gained from the qualifiers could be the catalyst for a more competitive showing at the upcoming tournament in South Africa.

Squad

Owen Gould (c), Uzair Ahmad, Harry Armstrong, Logan Briggs, Jamie Dunk, Bahadar Esakhiel, Ibrahim Faisal, Rory Grant, Adi Hegde, Mackenzie Jones, Farhan Khan, Qasim Khan, Nikhil Koteeswaran, Ruaridh McIntyre, Alec Price.

Fixtures

20 January: v England, Potchefstroom

24 January: v West Indies, Potchefstroom

27 January: v South Africa, Potchefstroom

Watch out for

Jamie Dunk

Jamie Dunk has been in outstanding form recently and played a crucial role for Scotland in their Qualifier campaign.

In the final Qualifier match, the 17-year-old showcased his talent by top-scoring with 96 runs off 99 balls and also contributed with the final wicket, securing Scotland’s spot in the U19 World Cup.

In the week prior, Dunk scored fifties in Scotland’s wins over both Norway and Jersey, bagging the Player of the Match in both games.

Ultimately, Dunk emerged as the highest run-scorer in the Europe Qualifiers, amassing 255 runs at an impressive average of 85. His stellar performance made him the undeniable choice for the Player of the Tournament award.

What they said

Owen Gould, Scotland captain: “That first England game is the big one. The rivalry, and it being the first game of the tournament… I think we’ll all be buzzing for it and go and give the English lads a run for their money, hopefully!”

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