The U19 World Cup semifinal between defending champions India and two-time title winners Pakistan will be held tomorrow at the Senwes Park in Potchefstroom.
The marquee contest is going to bring the cricket lovers in neighbouring countries to a standstill. Sadly, there aren't many opportunities to savour the intense contests between the archrivals which make these rare matches all the more special.
The young guns have been unbeaten in their world cup journey and will be eager to strut their stuff in the biggest match of their lives.
Pakistan junior side started their U19 World Cup campaign in a convincing manner by routing Scotland. They bowled them out on a paltry score of 75 and the chief tormenter with the ball was the 18-year-old Muhammad Wasim who bagged a sizzling fifer. The batsmen raced to the total within 11.4 overs.
Next up against Zimbabwe, batting first, Pakistan got to a par score of 294. Valiant fifties from Muhammad Fahad Munir and Qasim Akram helped get past 200 and then a gritty knock of 81 by Muhammad Haris got Pakistan to a big score.
Zimbabwe posed a far bigger challenge than Scotland and got to 256/10 in 46.3 overs. A concerted effort from the bowling attack enabled the green-shirts to bag a crucial win.
Thereafter, Pakistan locked horns with Bangladesh but the match turned out to be a damp squib as rain played spoilsport and the match ended without a result.
Then came the high octane affair against Afghanistan which was tipped to go down to the wire but Pakistan coasted home with six wickets and chased down the below-par 190 target in 41.1 overs, courtesy of Muhammad Huraira's 64 run solid knock and handy contributions from the top and middle order.
Just like Pakistan, India started their World Cup journey emphatically as well and thrashed Sri Lanka by a whopping margin of 90 runs. Batting first, India put up a colossal total of 297. The opener, Yashasvi Jaiswal laid a solid platform with a sublime fifty and then blitz from all middle-order batsmen, with many batters thumping half-centuries, helped India post a defendable total.
Sri Lanka succumbed under pressure and folded on 207 in 45 overs. Akash Singh, Siddhesh Veer and Ravi Bishnoi took two wickets each and kept making inroads, denying Sri Lanka to take the game deep.
Next up, they faced a newbie in the world of cricket - Japan - and it couldn't have been a more easy day at the office for India because the bowlers wreaked havoc on overwhelmed Japan's batsmen as they were bowled out on a minuscule 41 runs.
There was only one result possible after that shoddy batting display. Kartik Tyagi took three scalps and Ravi Bishnoi shed four wickets to send Japan team packing for the return flight.
In a rain-marred match against New Zealand, India won by 44 runs with DLS method coming into play. Following that game, they faced another side from Down Under in the quarter-final. India showed their class and might against Australia and romped to victory.
India got to 233/9 in 50 overs and, the main man, Jaswal played a responsible innings of 62 but then Todd Murphy and Corey Kelly triggered an epic collapse. Some gritty batting from Siddhesh Veer, Atharva Ankolekar and Ravi helped India recover from a dicey situation and they managed to scrap their way to a respectable total.
Australia's opener Sam Fanning played a terrific innings of 75 but he didn't get any support from his teammates as they could only manage 159/10 and squandered the opportunity of chasing a modest score after a stellar bowling performance.
Kartik Tyagi stepped up on the big stage again and registered a match-winning performance by snapping up four wickets which took the wind out of Australia's sails. He worked in tandem with left-arm pacer Akash Singh who sent three batsmen back in the hut.
Both teams have been convincing in their wins so far in the tournament and we can't wait to see the young crop of players in both teams to produce an exhilarating show in the all-important semifinal.
Many modern-day greats of cricket including Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Virat Kohli burst onto the scene in U-19 World Cup and then went on to prove their mettle at the top level. Similarly, the likes of Tyagi and Wasim aim to do the same in this U19 World Cup.
Rohail Nazir (captain and wicketkeeper), Abbas Afridi (Peshawar), Abdul Wahid Bangalzai (Quetta), Amir Ali (Larkana), Amir Khan (Peshawar), Arish Ali Khan (Karachi), Fahad Munir (Lahore), Haider Ali (vice-captain), Qasim Akram (Lahore), Mohammad Haris (Peshawar), Mohammad Huraira (Sialkot), Mohammad Irfan Khan (Lahore), Mohammad Shehzad (Multan), Mohammad Wasim Jnr (North Waziristan), Tahir Hussain (Multan)
Priyam Garg (c), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Tilak Varma, Divyaansh Saxena, Dhruv Chand Jurel, Shashwat Rawat, Divyansh Joshi, Shubhang Hegde, Ravi Bishnoi, Akash Singh, Kartik Tyagi, Atharva Ankolekar, Kumar Kushagra (wk), Sushant Mishra and Vidyadhar Patil