The 2020 Under-19 World Cup is upon us. By the end of Sunday, we'll know which the best youth team in the world is - Bangladesh, or India. India have enjoyed batting first and defending so far, while Bangladesh have found success chasing. So how can we expect the final to pan out, assuming both teams get what they want at the toss? Here's a bit of crystal-ball gazing.
India's batting innings
India openers Yashasvi Jaiswal and Divyaansh Saxena have to be watchful, looking to build a strong foundation with a steady start. Shoriful Islam, the left-arm seamer, has been accurate all tournament and will have the responsibility of getting Bangladesh the early breakthrough - there will be lateral movement for him, and that's something for the openers to watch out for. Tanzim Hasan Sakib, the right-arm seamer, is the quicker bowler, but that might play in the hands of Jaiswal and Saxena, and they will look to pick him off for runs. Left-arm spinner Rakibul Hasan and offspinner Shamim Hossain will have to be introduced early, and the India openers will look to play them out without much risk.
Foundation in place, India will look to consolidate here, but a variety of spin and pace may earn Bangladesh some wickets in this period. Tilak Varma and Priyam Garg, who have had a quiet World Cup, will look to push on in the spin-heavy middle overs - with one of the openers around for a while, ideally - when Rakibul, Shamim and Hasan Murad will operate. Shoriful's second spell will be crucial for both teams as India will look to score off him but not lose wickets in the process. Bangladesh have an opportunity in this period to dent India's progress with quick strikes, perhaps even exposing their lower-middle order earlier than usual, but India will want to chug along at a decent rate.
Siddhesh Veer, the swashbuckling allrounder, will be key here. If India are four or five down, he will look to take the innings as deep as possible before really changing gears. Veer's reputation as a 360-degree batsman could create some doubts in Bangladesh captain Akbar Ali, and the rate will increase in the early part of this stage with India looking to wrest back some control - in case they have conceded any. Although wickets may continue to tumble, the impetus on scoring at a quick pace will be high. India's lower-order batsmen will try to chip in with some handy runs but it's also likely that Tanzim and Shoriful will be tough customers to deal with at the death. Expect a few expensive overs and a total in the 240-260 range, which will be very competitive, especially in a final.
Bangladesh's batting innings
Looking at the target, the first priority for Parvez Hossain Emon and Tanzid Hasan will be to not lose their wickets in the early overs. They can't afford to get bogged down either, so expect them to wait for the loose balls and cash in. The pace of Kartik Tyagi and Sushant Mishra might work well for Bangladesh, but they must tread with caution. If a wicket falls early, Mahmudul Hasan Joy, the centurion from the semi-final, will be in with the agenda to consolidate, but legspinner Ravi Bishnoi, India's primary wicket-taking bowler, will come in to try and change the script. Bangladesh will stay in touching distance of the required run-rate, but two (or more) early wickets could hurt their chances.
Bangladesh's middle order, which has been very prolific, will have to ensure they don't crumble. Consolidation remains the key, but not at the cost of runs - too many dot balls will, as always, add to the pressure. Bishnoi and left-arm spinner Atharva Ankolekar are perfect when it comes to applying the choke, but Bangladesh know the latter can often err in his lengths. Left-arm seamer Akash Singh is probably India's weakest link and Bangladesh will have to make full use of the overs he gets. It's the best time for Bangladesh's middle-order to send India captain Garg scampering for other bowling options, and it will be in Bangladesh's advantage if he is forced to use up some extra overs from Tyagi and Mishra, which will leave Singh to bowl more in the back end.
Bangladesh wouldn't mind a required run-rate of around 6-7 in the final 15 overs, but only if they have wickets in hand. But, as it often is at the death, this is when they are most likely to lose wickets. If one of the top few manages to bat deep, as long as Akbar or Shahadat Hossain are at the crease, they would still be confident, even against a required run-rate of more than 8 in the final five overs. Bishnoi and Ankolekar will be bowled out by then, and if things go according to Bangladesh's plans, India will be left with Singh and another pacer to bowl the final overs. Tyagi's yorker-length deliveries will be key at this stage for India to prise out wickets, and how Bangladesh play his final overs out will determine the result.
What strategies can the teams employ if it's a rain-curtailed game?
For India, it's about how they best use their batsmen. Jaiswal, who has batted within himself so far despite being the tournament's run-scorer, will need to up his strike rate, something he is famous for in domestic cricket. Barring his hundred against Pakistan, his strike rate has been below 80 in the other four games. Varma, Veer, and Ankolekar are best suited to score at a faster rate, so they could bat ahead of Garg and Dhruv Jurel. India could also be tempted to use Bishnoi inside the powerplay, instead of sending him too late.
As for Bangladesh, they may be tempted to not play left-arm spinner Murad and opt for a quick bowler instead. Shahin Alam, the medium-pacer who can also bat, could be a good option. In the batting line-up, Hridoy could bat at No. 3 while Joy drops to No. 4. Shahadat, who has been unbeaten in his last three innings, is another pinch-hitting option whose potential they should not let go waste if it's a short game.
Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo