WI's batting flair a test for India's bowlers
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Start time 0900 local (0300 GMT)
Two questions will most probably be answered in the final of the 2016 Under-19 World Cup. How long can West Indies Under-19s continue their World Cup campaign with flair? And are the India Under-19s are saving their best game for the final?
Ishan Kishan's side have won all their matches in the tournament so far and in the few times that they have been tested, for instance in the first 45 minutes of their semi-final against Sri Lanka Under-19s, their awareness of the match situation helped them get through. Sarfaraz Khan, Rishabh Pant and, at times, Armaan Jaffer have led the team's batting front but there hasn't been a combined effort that pushes the opponent out of the contest. The India team management has had to take the tough call of dropping Ricky Bhui, who made only 47 runs in the first three games. His replacement, Anmolpreet Singh, though, has done the job at No. 3 and will target a big score in the final.
India's bowling attack, Mayank Dagar, Avesh Khan and Mahipal Lomror, have done well together and will be expected to stop West Indies' fast-scoring batsmen. Keeping Gidron Pope, Shimron Hetmyer and Shamar Springer quiet for long periods of play will be a stern test for India, and will be the most interesting sub-plot in the final. Pope has regularly given West Indies strong starts with the bat, while Springer and Hetmyer have held together West Indies' middle order.
West Indies' bowling, too, has flair, especially with Alzarri Joseph and Chemar Holder who bowl with pace and bounce in the first ten overs. Keemo Paul has been effective in the death, which means that India will have to do much of their scoring in the middle overs. Given the strength of the sides, and a Mirpur pitch that offers bounce but remains slow, the final will be a compelling match.
India: WWWWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies: WWWWL
Collectively India are still to put together a great batting performance, but their bowlers have done a good job of keeping the opposition at bay. Avesh, Dagar and Lomror have come together well while Rahul Batham and Khaleel Ahmed have been useful supporting acts.
The West Indies batsmen have shown the ability to bat together to form a good total or chase down a target. They would like a big knock from at least one of their in-form batsmen but the side has the ability to win through fifties and cameos from their batsmen.
Left-arm spinner Mayank Dagar is not high up on the wicket-taking charts but has the lowest average (9.75) among the bowlers with a minimum of eight wickets. West Indies have said that they are more confident against spinners now but Dagar offers a big challenge.
Shamar Springer enjoyed his match-winning role against Bangladesh in the semi-final, and will once again be West Indies' go-to all-round talent in the final. He bats with a lot of freedom, and has shown the ability to find gaps under pressure. His medium-pace will also come handy, backing up the first spells from Joseph and Holder.
Anmolpreet Singh said after the semi-final that he wants to play a long innings and the final will be a great chance for him to do so. He has so far played two good knocks in knockout games, after replacing Ricky Bhui in the side. His offspin and fielding have also been impressive.
Gidron Pope has been consistent in giving West Indies a fast start with the bat, though he has struck only two half-centuries so far. If he can carry a fiery start into the middle overs of the final, it could put West Indies in an dominant position.
Washington Sundar has had limited opportunities with the bat coming in slightly later in the innings, but in the final, he will be expected to bat at a higher strike-rate and pick up wickets with his developing offspin.
Now that Shimron Hetmyer has found form, West Indies would like Michael Frew to do better than his 27 runs and two wickets in the five matches so far. His side would feel safe knowing that when the opportunity comes up in the final, he is prepared and in good touch to get them to a good score.
Pitch and conditions
West Indies and India pace bowlers have extracted bounce from the Mirpur pitch which is likely to be a slow surface. There will be less focus on the toss if the weather doesn't dramatically turn on the morning of the final, as otherwise teams have won batting and bowling first four times each.
"If initially me and [Rishabh] Pant stay till the 12th over then 300 is possible because we know how to rotate the strike, and when to hit. Our calculation is good. So, the focus will be to concentrate for the initial part of play. [A score of] 270-280 will be good, but we will go for 300."
India Under-19s captain Ishan Kishan, on whether the side will have the added advantage of having played most of their World Cup matches in Mirpur
"We have talked about it yes, but nobody tends to have that pressure in them. The team is very confident and positive after the last two wins, going into the final. Pressure has not got into anyone and let's hope it stays that way."
West Indies Under-19s captain Shimron Hetmyer on whether his team is feeling the pressure of playing in the final
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84