Road to the World Cup
The ninth edition of the Under-19 World Cup has been preceded by a number of preparatory tours and tournaments for the 16 competing teams ahead of the main event. The ICC's Associate and Affiliate members - Afghanistan, Ireland, Namibia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea and Scotland - have been tested by the Under-19 World Cup qualifiers and regional tournaments while the others have kept themselves busy with full tours, tri-series and quadrangular series. Here's a look at recent results:
Afghanistan impressed by reaching the semi-finals of the Under-19 Asia Cup in Malaysia in June-July this year. After a four-wicket loss to Sri Lanka, they thrashed Qatar by 191 runs, thanks to a five-wicket haul by captain Javed Ahmadi, who is also part of Afghanistan's senior side. They eliminated Bangladesh to qualify for the semi-final, where they lost to Pakistan by 151 runs. They finished fourth in the World Cup qualifiers held in July-August 2011, losing four matches out of nine, including a close one against Ireland by four runs. In February 2011, they won the Under-19 Elite Cup, the Asian qualifying tournament, defeating Nepal in the final.
The three-time Under-19 World champions, coached by Stuart Law, will have the home advantage this World Cup. However, they have had mixed success in the lead-up to the event. They lost 2-1 to Pakistan in an ODI series in Gold Coast last week, after failing to defend their total in the first two matches. Their opening batsman Cameron Bancroft, who scored 143 runs in the three matches, was the man of the series. Kurtis Patterson, who has scored 310 runs in six matches played this year at an average of 62, is another batsman to watch.
Australia played a quadrangular youth ODI series in Townsville in April 2012, winning three matches, including a tight semi-final against New Zealand, but lost to India in the final. In September-October 2011, they finished last in a quadrangular series in India, losing five of their seven games. They also lost a three-match series, 2-1, to West Indies in Dubai in April 2011.
Bangladesh were knocked out of the Asia Cup by Afghanistan, the poor peformance forcing the BCB to demand an explanation. However, Bangladesh also produced a dominant 328-run victory against Qatar, featuring a double-century by Soumya Sarkar and a nine-wicket haul by left-arm pacer Abu Haider, in the same tournament. In February, 2012, they hosted England for a seven-match series, and won 5-2. Al-Amin scored 65 runs and took five wickets in the final match in Dhaka.
In May-June 2012, the Under-19s won a 'Second Eleven Twenty20 series', a series of T20 matches with county second XIs. They finished third in the quadrangular series in Australia in April 2012, winning three matches, and losing the semi-final to eventual winners India by six wickets. Their tour of Bangladesh in early 2012 ended in a 5-2 defeat. In 2011, they played Sri Lanka and South Africa in two youth ODI series, losing both.
India have three tournament wins coming in to the Under-19 World Cup. They finished as joint-winners of the Asia Cup, and won the quadrangular series in Australia and India. India started the recent Asia Cup campaign with a narrow one-run loss to Pakistan, but shared the trophy with the same team in a tied final that featured a century by captain Unmukt Chand. Chand also scored a ton in the final of the quadrangular series in Australia and two more centuries, against Australia and Sri Lanka, in last year's quadrangular tournament in India.
Ireland finished second in the European qualifiers to play the main World Cup qualifying event, where they won six of their nine matches to finish third. Ireland finished tenth in the previous Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand.
Namibia won the African Under-19 Division One Championship without losing a game to proceed to the Under-19 Qualifiers. However, the team sraped through to claim the final spot for the World Cup, after edging out USA and Canada, who finished with equal points, with a better net run-rate. They last participated in the World Cup in 2008.
The World Cup will be Nepal's sixth appearance at the event. The side couldn't qualify for the 2010 event as it failed to progress through to the Qualifiers from the regional qualifying tournament. But this time, Nepal finished second in the Under-19 Elite Cup to enter the Qualifiers, and claimed the second World Cup spot after winning seven of their nine matches. Nepal also played the Asia Cup in June-July and finished third in its group; They won against Malaysia but lost to India and Pakistan. Sagar Pun and bowler Rahul Vishwakarma have done well in recent matches, with the latter being the joint highest wicket-taker in the World Cup Qualifiers with 21 wickets.
New Zealand finished fourth in their only tournament after the 2010 World Cup - the quadrangular series played in Australia in April 2012. New Zealand's only victory in the tournament came against India, where leg spinner Ish Sodhi's three-wicket haul helped New Zealand bowl out India for 123.
Pakistan were the joint-winners of the Asia Cup with India. They defeated India by one run in the final group match in the tournament, to progress through to the final, where they again played India and tied the game. En route, they registered comfortable wins against Malaysia and Afghanistan. Last week, Pakistan beat Australia 2-1 in a bilateral series played in Gold Coast. Pakistan toured South Africa in January, 2012, for a tri-series and a three-match ODI series. Pakistan won all their tri-series matches except the final. Sami Aslam ended up as the highest run-scorer in the tri-series with 332, and Umar Waheed, the highest wicket-taker with 15 wickets. In the three-match ODI series against South Africa that followed, Pakistan won the close decider after smashing 22 off last two overs, to clinch the series.
Papua New Guinea
After winning the East Asia Pacific regional qualifying tournament, Papua New Guinea clinched the fifth place in the main qualifying event to the World Cup. Captain Christopher Kent was the highest run-getter in the tournament with 474 runs in nine matches.
Scotland won the Under-19 European Championship to qualify for the World Cup qualifiers. The side topped the qualifiers, losing their opening match against Canada by six runs and winning the rest of the eight games.
South Africa won the tri-series at home against Pakistan and Zimbabwe in January this year, winning four games, but lost the three-match series that followed 2-1 to Pakistan. The decider was a thriller that South Africa lost in the last over despite a century by their captain and wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock. In July 2011, South Africa defeated England 4-2 in an ODI series, with offspinner Prenelan Subrayen, with 14 wickets, and de Kock, with 341 runs, topping the bowling and the batting charts. In early 2011, they defeated Zimbabwe 5-0 in a home ODI series.
Sri Lanka reached the semi-final in the Asia Cup, losing to eventual winners India by six wickets. In September-October 2011, they participated in a quadrangular tournament with India, Australia and West Indies, finishing second after a five-run loss in the final to India. They won a five-match ODI series 3-1 against England in early 2011.
West Indies came third in the quadrangular tournament in India in September-October, 2011, defeating Australia in a high-scoring third-place playoff at Visakhapatnam that featured a century from captain Kraigg Brathwaite. West Indies won a three-match ODI series against Australia in April 2011, clinching the decider after an unbeaten 98 by left-hand batsman Kyle Mayers.
Zimbabwe lost all their matches against South Africa in a five-match ODI series in early 2011. The team also lost the following two-match T20I series against the same side. Twelve months later, they failed to win a single match during the tri-series with South Africa and Pakistan.
Abhishek Mukherjee is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo