Sports: Cricket: Pakistan, India favorites to lift U19 World Cup title

February 7, 2014 Off By Web Desk

Karachi: Two-time former winner Pakistan and defending champion Pakistan are favourites to progress to the Super League quarter-finals from Group A in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup UAE 2014 that will be staged across the UAE from February 14 to March 1.

Pakistan is the only country to have won the tournament back-to-back. Khalid Latif led Pakistan to the title in 2004 in Bangladesh, while Sarfraz Ahmed’s boys retained the crown when the event was staged in Sri Lanka in 2006.

This month, Pakistan will be led by Lahore’s opener Sami Aslam as the green shirts will join India and Australia in their quest to reclaim the title and become the only sides to have won the tournament three times each.

Meanwhile, India, to be led by Maharastra’s stylish top order batsman Vijay Zol, along with Australia, is the most successful side at this level having won the tournament three times. Mohammad Kaif inspired India to the title in Sri Lanka in 2000, while Virat Kohli led from the front in Malaysia when India regained the title in 2008.

The two sides will go head to head at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on February 15 in a match that is expected to decide which side tops the group. Also in Group A are Scotland and Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Scotland, which reached the plate championship semi-final in 2012, has qualified from the Europe Region while PNG will feature in its seventh tournament after defeating Vanuatu by 45 runs in the final of the East Asia-Pacific U-19 Championship in July 2013.

PNG first appeared in the 1998 edition but its best performances came in 2008 and 2010, when it reached the plate semi-finals. In Townsville, PNG finished 14th.

Sami, who will be appearing in his second World Cup, said that although the league matches would be tough encounters but hopefully his side will qualify for the next stage.

“We faced Scotland in 2012 and beat them comprehensively, so they’ll be gunning for revenge. PNG seems to be in good form and India is always tough, so we’ll have to be at our best and Inshallah will qualify strongly for the Super League,” said Sami.

“Before the ACC U19 Asia Cup final, we were on a winning streak of about 20 matches, and also beat India. So we’re upbeat about our chances not only in our high-profile first game against India, but beyond that as well. Our strengths, which are our batting and spin bowling, have always served us well in the UAE,” he added.