POTCHEFSTROOM: Arch-rivals Pakistan and India will lock horns in the first semi-final of the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup at the Senwes Park here in Potchefstroom on Tuesday.
The high-octane clash is set to capture the attention of millions of cricket fans in the sub-continent and the stakes, as always, are high.
The winners will clinch a spot in Sunday’s final of the most prestigious age-group cricket event. The two teams have tasted glory in the under-19 global event in the past with defending champions India victorious on four occasions while Pakistan are the only team to have won back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2006.
Pakistan’s historic 2006 triumph was registered with one of the most astonishing results in the history of the tournament when the Sarfraz Ahmed-led side convincingly defended their paltry 109-run total by rolling over India for 71 at Colombo’s R. Premadasa Stadium.
Overall, Pakistan have won five out of the nine World Cup matches between the two sides, while India have won four.
Pakistan have so far shown great depth in both bowling and batting departments in the ongoing tournament. They shot out Scotland for 75 in their opening group match and restricted Bangladesh to 106-9 in the rain affected game.
The bowlers also made light work of Afghanistan by bowling them out for 189 in the quarter-final clash.
The batting line-up’s depth was visible in game against Zimbabwe when Pakistan recovered from 73-3 to post 294.
All-rounder Abbas Afridi — with nine wickets in four games — is Pakistan’s leading wicket-taker, to date, and his fellow pacemen Tahir Hussain and Amir Khan have taken seven wickets each.
The batting is led by Mohammad Haris with his tournament tally being 110 runs from two innings. Qasim Akram has been amongst the runs, but Pakistan will be hoping for their skipper Rohail Nazir and opener Haider Ali to come good in the crunch encounter.
Haider, meanwhile, downplayed his lack of big runs: “I am happy with my form. I was playing well against Afghanistan before getting run out. But I feel confident that I will deliver against India. This is just another game for us and I don’t feel any additional pressure, I feel, I can do well in the match.”
Meanwhile, former Indian fast bowler Zaheer Khan said the India-Pakistan fixtures are always keenly followed regardless of the level of competition.
“When you talk about India-Pakistan [matches] that brings out an extra edge to the whole competition,” Zaheer said. ““I am sure the boys will be geared up for the big occasion and they will do well.”
The Indians won their group beating New Zealand and Japan in the process before going on to hammer Australia by 74 runs in the quarter-final.
The Indian quartet Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ravi Bishnoi, Akash Singh and Kartik Tyagi have already found their way into the IPL, each of them making important contributions in South Africa.
“In this World Cup, I bowled very well in the first game but got no wickets,” pacer Tyagi said. “Then the next two games, I bowled poorly but I took wickets. And finally, against Australia, I bowled well and got rewarded for them [four wickets].”
Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2020