ICC Under-19 World Cup - Group C Preview

Host nation New Zealand will face a rampant Sri Lanka in the race for the top qualifying spot in Group C at the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup, while form would suggest that Zimbabwe and Canada look set to battle it out in the Plate competition.

Group C matches will be played in Christchurch at Lincoln No. 3, QE II Park and the Bert Sutcliffe Oval – named after New Zealand’s famed batting sensation of the 1950s. The two matches from BSO will be televised on ESPN STAR Sports with Sri Lanka facing Zimbabwe and New Zealand up against Zimbabwe in those games.

New Zealand has a steady record in the event, being losing finalist once (1998) and losing semi-finalist twice (2000 and 2008) so there is still plenty of room for improvement. The side has only once missed the Super League stages (in 2006) so 2010 shapes as a big chance for it to make its second final.

New Zealand only has the recently concluded three-match series against Pakistan in Blenheim as a guide to its form. After comprehensively winning the first match of the series, it went on to lose the last two with the final match going down to the wire. New Zealand showed a weakness against quality spin but on home pitches, this vulnerability against spin won’t be tested as much as it would be elsewhere around the world.

Skipper Craig Cachopa is without doubt the key batsman. Cachopa scored 76 not out in the first and 70 in the final match of the Pakistan series, and adds value by rotating the strike through the middle overs.

Corey Anderson has played 15 first-class matches for Canterbury and is the team’s leading all-rounder, providing strong middle-order hitting and some handy left-arm medium pace bowling. Anderson averaged 40.5 in the 2008 U19 CWC with a top score of 82 against Zimbabwe and will need to be even more consistent during this campaign if New Zealand is to advance to the latter stages this time around.

Sri Lanka journeys to New Zealand on the back of some very good performances in two tri-nations series campaigns at home and abroad. Most recently, it finished second to world champions India at the tri-nations series in South Africa over the new year period. In December, the side won a tri-nations series at home against teams that included Pakistan and Bangladesh. And last October saw it travel to Darwin to take on Australia and it beat the home side 3-2 in a one-day series.

At previous U19 CWCs, Sri Lanka fell well short of its expectations and although the side has provided many individual stars for world cricket, it has failed to claim a title at this level. Sri Lanka’s best finish was in 2000 at home, losing the final to India, while in 2008 it lost its quarter-final to New Zealand. This year, batting seems to be a real strength with depth in all facets and some seriously talented individuals to scare any bowling attack.

Kithuruwan Vithanage was the best batsman during the home tri-nations series, playing two vital knocks, one of which helped topple Pakistan in the final. Vithanage masterminded the chase, playing an accomplished innings, 75 not out off 82 balls, to guide Sri Lanka to the title on the final ball of the match.

Left-hand opening bat Rumesh Buddhika showed he is capable of making big scores with a sensational 139 against South Africa on New Year’s Eve while Banuka Rajapaksa also proved his ability with 154 not out from just 111 deliveries against Australia at Darwin in October.

Zimbabwe will want to forget its 2008 campaign in Malaysia after finishing 14th with disappointing losses to Malaysia, Nepal and Ireland. While 2010 offers the chance to put to bed the scars of 2008, coming up against hosts New Zealand and a very dangerous Sri Lanka team, its chances could be slim. Recent form has been similarly poor, with a 5-0 series loss away to Bangladesh and a 5-1 drubbing by Pakistan at home.

Dean Mashawidza was the best performing batsman on the tour of Bangladesh with 150 runs in the five-match series including a best of 77. Stephen Chimhamhiwa’s medium pace was successful at home against Pakistan with 14 wickets in four games including a best of five for 49, while Tendai Chatara was the pick of the Zimbabwe bowlers during the Bangladesh series chiming in with eight wickets in four games.

Canada completes Group C and has been dubbed the most impressive under-19 team to leave those shores. The side finished fourth in the global qualifiers and completed a very respectable victory over second-placed Afghanistan. It currently has four players in the squad to have played for the Canada senior team, in an ODI or an ICC Intercontinental Cup match.

This is only Canada’s third appearance at the U19 CWC after participating in the 2002 and 2004 events. The side is still looking for its first match victory at an U19 CWC and possibly this is the year.

The Canadians’ star performer is 18-year-old all-rounder Hiral Patel who scored a double hundred in the regional qualifiers against Argentina, then backed that up with 17 wickets during the global qualifying tournament with his slow left-arm bowling. Having already played two ODIs for Canada against Kenya last year, Patel will be looking to cement his spot in the team for 2010 with some match-winning performances in this event.

Group C squads

New Zealand: Craig Cachopa (captain), Corey Anderson, Tom Blundell, Harry Boam, Doug Bracewell, Michael Bracewell, Dane Cleaver, Jono Hickey, Tim Johnston, Tom Latham, Jimmy Neesham, Bevan Small, Mattie Thomas, Logan Van Beek, Ben Wheeler.

Sri Lanka: Chatura Peiris (captain), Andri Berenger, Banuka Rajapaksa, Charith Jayampathi, Danishka Gunathilleke, Denuwan Rajakaruna, Kasun Madushanka, Kithuruwan Vithanage, Kushan Apputhantri, Kankanamge, Lahiru Jayaratne, Maduka Liyanapathiranage, Rumesh Buddika, Rushan Jaleel, Saranga Rajaguru, Udara Jayasundera.

Zimbabwe: Dylon Higgins (captain), Stephen Chimhamhiwa, Gary Chirimuuta, Tendai Chatara, Scott Daly, Andrew Lindsay, Natsai M’Shangwe, Dean Mashawidza, Peter Moor, Simon Mugava, Tinotenda Mutombodzi, Richard Muzhange, Calum Price, Nathan Waller, Mazvita Zambuko.

Canada: Rustam Bhatti (captain), Manny Aulakh, Parth Desai, Darius D’Souza, Ruvindu Gunasekara, Hardik Kotak, Nitish Kumar, Usman Limbada, Zain Mahmood, Asif Manjra, Hiral Patel, Riyazkhan Pathan, Harpreet Singh, Arsalan Qadir, Hamza Tariq.

Group C fixtures

Friday 15 January: Zimbabwe v Canada, QE II
Saturday 16 January: New Zealand v Canada, Lincoln No. 3
Sunday 17 January: Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe, Bert Sutcliffe Oval (Televised)
Monday 18 January: Sri Lanka v Canada, Lincoln No. 3     
Tuesday 19 January: New Zealand v Zimbabwe, Bert Sutcliffe Oval (Televised)   
Wednesday 20 January: New Zealand v Sri Lanka, QE II