India face tough Aussie hurdle in chase for 3rd U-19 WC

Townsville (Australia): India will face their sternest test in the pursuit of a third ICC Under-19 World Cup Trophy when they take on formidable defending champions Australia in what promises to be an exciting summit clash of the event here tomorrow.

Patchy in batting with some of their top order batsmen not showing the desired consistency, the Indians will have to raise their game in conditions that have favoured the bowlers at the Tony Ireland Stadium here.

India have not quite hit their straps despite the tournament drawing to a close now with not-too-impressive performances in Group C. The Indians followed up a defeat to the West Indies with expected wins against Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea.

Superb bowling performances saw them defeat Pakistan in quarters and New Zeland in the semis but the side has failed to get consistent efforts from their batsmen, with Vijay Zol (150 runs) being India`s highest run-scorer. They have been much better with the ball though, with Kamal Passi (10 wickets) and Sandeep Sharma (8 wickets) leading their attack.

The spin duo of Harmeet Singh and Baba Aparajith also proved their worth with economical spells in the nine-run win over New Zealand in the last-four stage.

Batting first is often seen as an advantage in the 50-over format but four countries have pulled off successful run-chases with the side which bats first averaging just 213 runs at the venue.

Only Australia`s Cameron Bancroft and Zimbabwe`s Malcolm Lake have scored centuries at the venue.

But India have a successful history at the event, having won it in 2000 and 2008. A disappointing result in 2010 saw the team finish sixth, losing the quarter-final to Pakistan. On the other hand, winner of the inaugural event in 1988, played in Australia, the host team has won the World Cup three times.

Australia U19s clinched the trophy in 2002 and then again in 2010, when they beat tournament favourites Pakistan in the final by 25 runs.

The team will be hopeful of defending the title on home soil, and, if they do, they will become only the second country after Pakistan to win back-to-back titles.

Their batting has so far relied on the consistency of opener Bancroft and number four Kurtis Patterson, who missed out on a half century by one run in the narrow win over South Africa in the semifinals.

Bowlers have enjoyed the conditions on offer with pace duo of Gurinder Sandhu (9 wickets) and Mark Steketee (7 wickets) being the key men for the home team.