Confident Bangladesh bank on home advantage
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Start time 0900 local (0300 GMT)
West Indies' ability to surprise made sure that it wasn't going to be an all-Asian last four at the Under-19 World Cup. While Bangladesh reaching the semi-finals wasn't unexpected after they started the tournament with a resounding win against the defending champions, West Indies' journey has been more topical.
Unlike the hosts, West Indies started their campaign with a loss and then showed their batting firepower against Fiji. They entered the knockouts in controversial circumstances and jolted the Pakistan line-up with impressive fast bowling. Alzarri Joseph's ability with the ball will be vital to a start that could prove to be decisive.
Challenging Bangladesh at the Shere Bangla Stadium is going to be a tough task. Bangladesh are unbeaten but have faced only one Full Member so far - South Africa. They have put up strong totals batting first, strangled oppositions with their spin attack, and also chased a 200-plus target against Nepal under pressure. However, their pace attack is not as menacing, and they would also be under pressure on Thursday while playing their first World Cup semi-final. They will have an edge over West Indies, though, having beaten them 3-0 in a bilateral series just before the World Cup began.
West Indies WWWLL
Bangladesh's power lies in their middle-order batting. It shone against South Africa to post a stiff 240, scored 256 against Scotland and rescued the team in the quarter-final against Nepal. The West Indies bowlers' biggest challenge will be to find a way to curb the batsmen in the middle overs.
West Indies, too, were led by their batsmen - opener Gidron Pope's attacking mindset at the top and Shamar Springer producing scores in the middle order - until pace bowler Chemar Holder arrived. But now the new-ball pair of Alzarri Joseph and Holder have given their team a new dimension to topple any opposition by taking the pitch out of the equation.
Nazmul Hossain Shanto has been the hosts' middle-order mainstay. He has fallen for only one single-digit score so far in the competition and is their leading run-scorer with an average of 104. If the top order crumbled, Shanto is the player the middle order revolved around as he rotates strike with ease and doesn't rely on the big shots.
With his pace and troubling lengths, Alzarri Joseph has always struck with the new ball in the World Cup so far. He showed against Zimbabwe that he can be a force in his second spell too and West Indies will come to Mirpur depending on him quite a bit.
Mehedi Hasan Miraz, the Bangladesh captain, has struck two quick fifties so far and is one of the main players in the middle order. What is also key is his offspin. Once the opposition builds their platform for a strong finish, Miraz brings himself on to thwart their plans. He hasn't failed so far, picking up seven wickets with an economy rate of 3.47. He will hope to do the same against a team that is not the best against spin bowling.
Holder flew to Bangladesh as a replacement after his team had already reached the knockouts. He was drafted into the XI on recent form and lived up to expectations with a stellar new-ball show against Pakistan. West Indies will hope for him to be the X-factor on Thursday too.
Saif Hassan has already been criticised for his defensive approach, although that is the role given to him. Since Joseph and Holder will come out all guns blazing with the new balls, Saif's ability to soak up the pressure and play them out will be crucial.
Shimron Hetmyer, the West Indies captain, is the only player in their squad who played the previous Under-19 World Cup. He has enough experience behind him, but not as many runs. He started the tournament with low scores but showed good signs in the chase against Pakistan. He scored a positive fifty and will look to stretch his form against the hosts' spin attack.
Pitch and conditions
The Mirpur pitch has helped the pace bowlers a lot so far in the morning. It might be overcast on Thursday too, but don't expect another pace-friendly track in the second semi-finals. It won't come as a surprise if a much slower and spinner-friendly pitch is on offer with more than 10,000 fans expected to cheer for the Bangladesh.
"We are playing them at home so it's going to be a tough game for us. And possibly I would say a grudge match for us."
West Indies captain Shimron Hetmyer on the team mindset in view of the bilateral series they had lost before the World Cup.
"If we are happy already, we will have to end our tournament here and now. We are not entirely satisfied with our performance. We are taking it one game at a time. We are not taking it as a semi-final, rather a match that we have to win."
Bangladesh captain Mehedi Hasan Miraz about whether they are happy with their progress to the semi-final.
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo