Australia, India clash in fitting final
Match factsAustralia v India, Under-19 World Cup final
August 26, Tony Ireland Stadium, Townsville
Start time 0930 (2330 GMT, previous day)
Big PictureOn April 15 this year, Under-19 teams from Australia and India played a final at the pastoral Endeavour Park in Townsville. They were competing for the Quad series trophy and the world at large didn't care too much. For the record, India won. The two teams clash again in a final on Sunday, at Tony Ireland Stadium, and this time more people will care. The World Cup is at stake.
Defending champions Australia, seeded No. 1 before the tournament began in Queensland on August 11, and India, seeded sixth, were drawn in different halves of the competition. They would not face each other unless they made it to August 26. That both teams did so gives the World Cup a fitting final: Australia, winners in 2010 and unbeaten in 2012, against India, the team with the most silverware in their trophy cupboard over the previous 12 months.
The final is now a promoter's dream, and one cannot help but wonder if this was the hope at the start. It seemed odd that Australia would have faced their group opponents England, and India would have played West Indies, in the semifinals had those teams made it that far.
Expect a sizeable crowd on Sunday, more Australians of course, but the Indians make up for smaller numbers with higher decibel levels. There will be millions watching on television too, in Australia and in the wee hours of cricket's largest market, the subcontinent. Very few of the players taking the field will have done so under such attention; most never will again.
There will be a raging party at only one of the Oaks Hotels on Palmer Street on Sunday night.
Road to the finalAustralia beat England by six wickets, Nepal by 212 runs, Ireland by six wickets, Bangladesh by five wickets in the quarter-final, and South Africa by four wickets in the semi-final.
India lost to West Indies by four wickets, beat Zimbabwe by 63 runs, beat Papua New Guinea by 107 runs, beat Pakistan by one wicket in the quarter-final, beat New Zealand by nine runs in the semi-final.
Key battlesThe new-ball threat: India's batting line-up is more top heavy than Australia's, and how Unmukt Chand, Prashant Chopra and Baba Aparajith fare against Joel Paris, Mark Steketee and Gurinder Sandhu could decide how competitive the final is. They'll need Vijay Zol to pull his weight in the middle order too. "They [India] haven't play their best cricket, I don't think, especially with the bat, but we'll be ready for a better side," Sandhu said. "If you put a bit of pressure on any team that's what happens, they lose wickets at the wrong time. If we stick to our plans, we can do that as well." Australia have key performers at the top and in the middle, and appear a better-balanced batting side.
Australia's batsmen v spin: The left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh and offspinner Baba Aparajith have backed up India's capable pace attack superbly. Harmeet has been bowling slower, with flight, drift and turn, and taken six wickets in three matches with an economy of 2.83. Aparajith focuses on being economical, bowling a little quicker, and he has four wickets and conceded 3.71 per over. Also, the left-right combination will give Chand options against Australia's right and left-hand batsmen. In their semi-final, Australia's scored only 14 runs off South Africa offspinner Prenelan Subrayen's ten overs.
The toss: William Bosisto has won two out of three tosses at Tony Ireland Stadium and the only time Australia's batsmen have had to face the new ball in the morning at this venue has been against Nepal. India, on the other hand, have been sent in three times and have plenty of experience of setting a target. "No matter how many times you've played there, there's always something in it for the bowlers," India coach Bharat Arun said. However, if the conditions tomorrow are like they were in the semi-final against New Zealand, sunny with a flatter pitch, India could fancy a bat and let their bowlers do what they've done best all tournament - defend a target. If they aren't, however, then bowling first is a no-brainer and a significant advantage.
Team newsUnless there are fitness issues, neither team is likely to make a change to their line-up. Australia gave all 15 of their squad members a game during the group stage but then settled on a XI that they used to win the quarter-final and semi-final.
Australia (probable): 1 Cameron Bancroft, 2 Jimmy Peirson (wk), 3 Kurtis Patterson, 4 Meyrick Buchanan, 5 William Bosisto (capt), 6 Travis Head, 7 Ashton Turner, 8 Mark Steketee, 9 Joel Paris, 10 Gurinder Sandhu, 11 Alex Gregory.
In the first group game against West Indies, India played three spinners and two seamers. Since then, they've played two spinners and three quicks, with medium-pacer Rush Kalaria and spinner Vikas Mishra being benched and Kamal Passi and Ravikant Singh getting a go. After Harmeet recovered from his illness, in time for the knockouts, India played an unchanged team.
India (probable): 1 Unmukt Chand (capt), 2 Prashant Chopra, 3 Baba Aparajith, 4 Hanuma Vihari, 5 Vijay Zol, 6 Akshdeep Nath, 7 Smit Patel (wk), 8 Harmeet Singh, 9 Kamal Passi, 10 Ravikant Singh, 11 Sandeep Sharma.
Pitch and conditionsThe weather in Townsville is expected to be cloudy in the early morning but clear once it's time for the toss. Conditions for batting will still be hardest during the first hour of the game.
Stats and trivia
- Australia have two batsmen - Jimmy Peirson and Meyrick Buchanan - who have scored only 89 runs between them in nine innings. India also have two - Hanuma Vihari and Akshdeep Nath - who've scored only 113 in ten.
- India's batsmen have scored seven half-centuries in five matches, but their highest individual score is Chand's 78 against Zimbabwe.
- Bosisto's been dismissed only once in five innings in this tournament - he was run out against South Africa - and has an average of 189.
- Ravikant, who's playing his first Under-19 tournament for India, is their highest wicket-taker: 11 in four games. Despite Australia's strength being pace, offspinner Ashton Turner has been their most successful bowler, with ten wickets in five games.
- Australia have conceded 66 wides and two no-balls in their progress to the final. India have conceded 36 wides and six no-balls.
Quotes"It certainly helps having played a side before. So there's not so much of the unexpected. Having said that, I think each time you play an opponent, they are going to be slightly different. They are not going to do the same thing over again. Come Sunday, we know to expect a tough opponent. We know we're up for a contest."
Australia captain William Bosisto on having played India several times before Sunday's final
"Trying to approach it [the final] as a normal game, it's not that easy. All of us are excited and I hope by tomorrow everything sinks in. Right now, let the boys enjoy and let them have fun. But tomorrow, once we go to the practice nets, we'll again start talking about game plans - how we need to play the finals, what we need to do."
India captain Unmukt Chand the day after India won the semi-final
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo