India will aim to continue their winning run and seal a place in the final when they take on Sri Lanka in the first semi-final of the Under-19 cricket World Cup at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium here on Tuesday.
India have been unbeaten in the tournament so far and have outclassed all four opponents yet in all departments of the game. En route to the semi-finals, the three-time winners (2000, 2008, 2012) thrashed Namibia by 197 runs, thanks to a superb ton by opener Rishabh Pant in the quarter-final.
India’s batting has been strong right through, with the top-order standing tall and delivering when the team needed it the most. Besides Pant, skipper Ishan Kishan has given India good starts but is still in search of a big score.
Middle-order batsman Sarfaraz Khan, with a couple of handy half-centuries, helped India post some respectable scores. Armaan Jaffer, Anmolpreet Singh and all-rounder Washington Sundar have also delivered.
The bowling department comprising of some talented quicks — Avesh Khan, Khaleed Ahmed and medium pacer Rahul Batham — gave the Rahul Dravid-coached side the much needed early breakthrough in every outing yet.
And some quality spinners — Anmolpreet, Sundar and Mahipal Lomror — kept the opposition’s run-rate in check in the middle overs. They will aim to do the same against Sri Lanka.
India, who beat New Zealand, Ireland and Nepal to top Group D earlier, will look to keep things simple and get past the island nation and book another place in the final.
“We know what to expect from them. They have a couple of seamers and a lot of good spinners. They bowl a lot of spin. Having said that, they also know what to expect from us,” India head coach Dravid said before the match.
“It should be a good contest. We have been playing very good cricket of late and the lead-up to the tournament was good. We need to play well, irrespective of whether we bat or bowl first. If we play good cricket and bring our A game to the party, we will give ourselves a good chance to win,” the former India skipper said.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka have also been in prime form and made it to the semis after defeating a strong England team by six wickets. Bundling out England for just 184 in the quarter-final here on Sunday, they surpassed the score in only the 36th over.
This is the third time Sri Lanka have reached the semi-finals since the inception of this tournament in 1988. In their home event in 2000, they reached the final, first and last time, where they lost to the Mohammad Kaif-led Indian team while in 2010 in New Zealand, Sri Lanka reached the last four and finished fourth.
Opener Avishka Fernando, who scored 95 off 96 balls in the quarters, will be someone to watch out for yet again. Apart from Fernando, Kaveen Bandara and skipper Charith Asalanka are the batsmen the team will rely on to do the job against India.
In the bowling department, leg-spinner Wanidu Hasanranga, who grabbed three wickets on Sunday, will aim to give the three-time champions trouble with his variation.
Surprise package Kamindu Mendis, who can bowl both right-arm off-break and slow left-arm orthodox, has all it takes to surprise a batsman.
Apart from Hasanranga, fast bowler Asitha Fernando will look to exploit the Indian top-order with his pace.
Sri Lanka coach Roger Wijesuriya said his side’s impressive win over England left him optimistic about the semi-final.
“India is a strong side, a good all-round side. We know their strengths. I know Indians play spin well but spin bowling is our strength and we will stick to that. If we play the way we did against England, there is no reason why we can’t turn the semi-final in our favour,” Wijesuriya said.
“We will take on the Indians with a lot of confidence. We have nothing to fear. It should be a very good game,” the coach added.
The winner will meet either host Bangladesh or West Indies in the final on February 14.
India will feature in its seventh semi-final while Sri Lanka, will aim for their maiden title.
When the tournament was last held in Bangladesh in 2004, Pakistan won the title defeating West Indies in the final.
India finished third and Sri Lanka was fifth.