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Australia, Pakistan colts set for final showdown

January 29, 2010 15:26 IST

Australia and Pakistan go head to head in a battle of former champions in the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2010 final at Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Christchurch, on Saturday, with both the sides aiming to become the first country to win the tournament three times.

Australia put its hands on the trophy in 1988 and in 2002, while Pakistan won back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2006. Australia's victories came in its own backyard and in New Zealand, while Pakistan won the events when they were staged in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

The two sides have met six times in Under-19 cricket World Cups, with Pakistan winning four of the contests. It won the league games in 1988 and 1998 by 32 and 27 runs respectively before winning by 163 runs in the semi-finals in 2006 and by six wickets in the quarter-finals in 2008.

One of Australia's two victories was in the inaugural final in 1988, when a Stuart Law-inspired team defeated Pakistan by five wickets in Adelaide. The Pakistan side included players like Basit Ali, Inzamam-ul Haq and Mushtaq Ahmed, who went on to represent Pakistan with distinction at the highest level.

Australia's second and last victory over Pakistan in a World Cup was in 2000 in Sri Lanka, where it won its group stage match by 27 runs.

In the tournament so far, fourth-seed Pakistan is the only unbeaten side, having won its matches against the West Indies (by 40 runs), Papua New Guinea (by six wickets), Bangladesh (by four wickets) in the group stage before overpowering defending champions India by two wickets in the quarter-finals and the West Indies in the semi-finals by four wickets.

In contrast, sixth-seed Australia lost its group stage match to South Africa by two wickets in a high-scoring thriller in Queenstown but recorded comfortable victories against the USA (by 108 runs), Ireland (by 209 runs), New Zealand (by 62 runs) before ending the challenge of Sri Lanka in the semi-final by two wickets.

Looking ahead at the final, Pakistan captain Azeem Ghumman said: "The team is feeling good and confident. We came into the tournament convinced that we could do well. We came here to win and we hope we can do that.

"We have been together as a team now for a long time and this is a big factor in the way we are playing. We get on well together, we are like a family and we play as a team not just as individuals."

Azeem said he would like his boys to focus on their preparations rather than worry about Australia. "I don't think any one team is especially more challenging. We have not played Australia very much recently so we don't know them so well but they are a good side. It doesn't matter who we are playing, we have to get our own game right.

"The important thing for us is that we have to get through the first 10 or 15 overs. We have been relying heavily on our middle-order so we are just asking our top-order batsmen to stay there. If we can get through the first 10 overs, then we can build a good score.

"It looks like a good batting track but I'm not sure if it's a 300-run track. It depends so much on the bowling and how the teams perform," Azeem said.

Australia captain Mitchell Marsh hoped his side would stick to the basics.

"The side that does its basics right in these sorts of games usually comes out on top. If we can go out there on Saturday and do the basics better than Pakistan, then I think things might go our way."

Marsh said his side respects Pakistan as an opponent. "Obviously, Pakistan has a fairly good batting line-up and a few good spinners, so we'll be looking to counter them. We've got full respect for Pakistan and in the final anything can happen, so we're just looking forward to it.

"With the sort of experience in our side, it was always a goal to be in the tournament at this end. Like any other team, we have come here to win the tournament and not just to fill up the numbers. We've got the side that is capable to win this tournament."

Pakistan's Hammad Azam, who scored a match-winning 92 not out against the West Indies in the semi-final said: "I'm very happy that our team qualified for the final.  That was our dream -- to play in the final and to win it. We have reached the final and now we will try our best to win.

"I have really enjoyed the tournament and I'm very happy with my form because I haven't been dismissed yet in this tournament."

Australia fast bowler Josh Hazlewood, who took 4-26 in the semi-final against Sri Lanka on Wednesday, said: "We're very excited to be in the final. The team's looking pretty good. No injury worries, so we're looking forward to it.

"Pakistan is always very tough at the U19 level. I've played them probably five or six times in a series in Australia and Pakistan and also at the last World Cup."

The match will be televised live by ICC's broadcast partner ESPN STAR Sports at 0300 IST.


Australia (from) - Mitchell Marsh (captain), Tim Armstrong, Tom Beaton, Nick Buchanan, Jackson Coleman, Luke Doran, Ben Dougall, Jason Floros, Josh Hazlewood, Alex Keath, Nic Maddinson, Alister McDermott, Kane Richardson, Tom Triffitt, Adam Zampa.

Pakistan (from) - Azeem Ghumman (captain), Abdul Ameer, Ahmad Shahzad, Ahsan Ali, Anop Ravi, Fayyaz Butt, Hammad Azam, Muhammad Babar Azam, Muhammad Naeem, Muhammad Waqas, Rameez Aziz, Raza Hasan, Sarmad Bhatti, Shahzaib Ahmed, Usman Qadir.

Umpires: Richard Kettleborough, Kumar Dharmsena, Brian Jerling (third), Norman Malcolm (fourth)