England’s Under-19 team wasn’t rated very well for some time, as its initial success of winning a World Cup in 1998 had fizzled out, and it had not made it to the final of the tournament even once since. However, this time around, it has stunned not only other favoured teams but also its own supporters by reaching the final for the first time in 24 years.
The road to the final for the English colts has been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride, the only difference being that even when the ride went down, the team was able to pull it up. It is now entering the final without losing even a single game.
ENG U19 vs BAN U19: Beginning with a bang
In their first match of the tournament, the English were up against defending champions Bangladesh. The England team was also coming on the back of a series loss against Sri Lanka U19 in conditions that were similar, if not entirely the same like those in West Indies.
Their opening warm-up game against Afghanistan was also washed out. So, before playing their opening World Cup encounter, the English had nothing to count as practice except a game against Papua New Guinea.
But keeping all that aside, Josh Boyden bowled an inspiring spell in which he picked up four wickets and brought the World Cup holders to their knees.
If it wasn’t for the 46-run stand between the last batting pair of the junior Tigers, they wouldn’t have been able to reach the total of 97. England chased that down with ease and announced itself on the biggest stage of junior cricket.
Breezing past the minnows in Tom Prest style
In their next two games, where they were up against minnows UAE and Canada, the English skipper Tom Prest made the most of it and scored big runs to boost his confidence for the knockouts. Prest scored 93 against Canada to power his team to 320-7. And then with the ball, too, he picked up three wickets to bag the Player of the Match award.
In the next game, he made sure not to miss out on a hundred-scoring opportunity and plundered the UAE bowlers to record the second-highest individual score of this World Cup. The Dorset-born hit 13 fours and four sixes to reach 154*.
In both these games, England registered big wins and its victory against Bangladesh meant that it didn’t have to face India in the quarterfinals.
ENG U19 vs SA U19 | Quarterfinal: Jacob Bethell’s all-round show
South Africa’s bowling against India and an improved batting in its last group match against Ireland made it a favourite in the tie against England. However, the English bowlers, especially spinner Rehan Ahmed, made sure that all the pre-match assumptions were proved wrong.
Thanks to Ahmed’s spell of 4/48, even Dewald Brevis’ 97 was not enough to get the junior Proteas to a winning total. They folded up for 209 in the 44th over.
With the bat, Jacob Bethell played his best innings of the tournament so far. The left-handed opening batter smashed 88 off just 42 balls, with 16 fours and two sixes. With that onslaught, it became easier for the remaining batters and the English team chased the target down in only 31.2 overs.
ENG U19 vs AFG U19 | Semi-Final: Rehan to the rescue
The toughest test yet for England U19 came against Afghanistan in the semi-finals. The Afghans, who edged past Sri Lanka in a very close fight in the quarterfinals, were threatening to get to their first-ever World Cup final of any sort in cricket before Rehan Ahmed came to England’s rescue.
The leg spinner was reintroduced into the attack at an important juncture, with Afghans needing 76 runs off 75 balls and five wickets in hand. And two set batters, Bilal Ahmad and Abdul Hadi, were in the middle. Rehan not only broke that stand, but also dismissed the next three batters to win the game for England by 15 runs. He finished with figures of 4/41.
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