India defeated Australia in the group stage    Getty Images
India defeated Australia in the group stage Getty Images

Unbeaten India Under-19 are set to face Australia Under-19 in the final of ICC Under-19 2018. This can be d j vu moment for some for numerous reasons. India Seniors had faced Pakistan in their first group stage game of ICC Champions Trophy and lost to them in the final. India Women, too, lost to England in the final of Women s World Cup at Lord s after defeating the hosts by 35 runs in their tour opener. Coincidence, if it may be called, India Under-19 had defeated Australia by 100 runs in the first match of the tournament.

Australia coach Ryan Harris rightly pointed out that India s lower-middle order has not been tested yet. The top three, skipper Prithvi Shaw, Manjot Kalra and Shubman Gill have done it for India so far. Of the 5 matches India have played in the tournament, the middle-order has come out to bat thrice. Against Australia, the top three scored 74 per cent of the team s score, against Bangladesh in quarter-final they scored 47.5 per cent and against Pakistan in semi-final they scored 69.85 per cent. Only two, Abhishek Sharma and Anukul Roy, have shone in the lower-middle order so far.

India s pace bowling has been phenomenal and the bowlers have earned much praise off late. The trio of Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and back-from-injury Ishan Porel are in form, which is good news for Shaw. Anukul Roy leads the spin attack, with 12 wickets from 5 matches. Abhishek and Riyan Parag are other options. However, Parag s form in batting remains a concern. Batting at No. 5, he has scored 2 and 15 so far.

Though Harris spoke only about Indian middle order, Australia s middle order has not fired either. Apart from 61 by Param Uppal against Papua New Guinea, there have hardly been mentionable efforts. Just like Shaw, Australia captain Jason Sangha has led the side by example and has been one of the most consistent run-getters in the side. The other player who has been elemental in Australia s journey so far is Jack Edwards. Edwards has scored 188 runs and bagged 5 wickets in the tournament. Nathan McSweeney s outstanding effort of 156 requires a mention as well.

Australia have experimented a lot with their bowling combinations. Though the celebrity sons (Austin Waugh and Will Sutherland) drew attention, they could not impress as much as the likes of Lloyd Pope, Jonathan Merlo and Jason Ralston. Consistency has been a major issue with the bowlers. Despite having successful outings, they have failed to carry forward that momentum to the next game. In the final, they will have to gain confidence from their previous successful spells as there is no room for error.

Head to head:

India and Australia have faced each other in 5 matches in Under-19 World Cup and India have won 3 of them. The teams have collided in final of World Cup just once, in 2012, and India won it. Both teams have won three World Cup titles each.

Captain’s speak:

“Whenever the team’s needed them, they (the fast bowlers) have provided the breakthroughs. They’re ready whenever I ask them to bowl. They’ve good intensity as well, their fitness is great as well. All of them Nagarkoti, Porel, Mavi. It helps us all to have a good attitude in the field, we’re all really pumped up when our fast bowlers do well,” PTI quoted Shaw.

“The 100-run loss does not bother me at all. A grand final is a different contest. It’s a different pitch, different nerves. We wouldn’t say we are underdogs. We are not the favourites, but at the end of the day we are Australia, we are our own team, India are their own team. We are a side that can beat any team if we play well. We’ve grown by leaps and bounds since our first match,” said Sangha.

Squads:

India U19: Prithvi Shaw (c), Shubman Gill, Manjot Kalra, Himanshu Rana, Abhishek Sharma, Riyan Parag, Harvik Desai, Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Ishan Porel, Anukul Roy, Shiva Singh, Aryan Juyal, Arshdeep Singh, Pankaj Yadav, Aditya Thakare

Australia U19: Jason Sangha (c), Will Sutherland, Xavier Bartlett, Max Bryant, Jack Edwards, Zak Evans, Jarrod Freeman, Ryan Hadley, Baxter J Holt, Nathan McSweeney, Jonathan Merlo, Lloyd Pope, Param Uppal, Austin Waugh, Aaron Hardie