ISLAMABAD: Defending champions West Indies will begin their 2018 Under-19 World Cup campaign against hosts New Zealand in Tauranga on January 13, the opening day of the tournament. West Indies and New Zealand have been placed in Group A, along with South Africa and the Africa qualifier, Kenya. Tauranga will also host the tournament final, on February 3. Sixteen teams will participate in the 2018 edition, including the five qualifiers – Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Canada, Afghanistan and Ireland. The ten Test teams (prior to Afghanistan and Irelandâ€™s elevation) and Namibia, who finished as the best Associate team in the 2016 edition, had gained automatic qualification.
Runners-up of 2016 and three-time champions India, who blanked England 5-0 in the recently-concluded series, have been slotted into Group B with Zimbabwe, Australia and Papua New Guinea. Australia will make their return to the tournament, having pulled out of the 2016 edition in Bangladesh due to security concerns. Bangladesh, who were semi-finalists in 2016, will compete with England, Namibia and Canada in Group C. Two-time champions Pakistan and 2016 semi-finalists Sri Lanka are in Group D with Afghanistan and Ireland.
The top two teams from each group will advance to the Super League, while the remaining eight teams will feature in the Plate competition. Twenty matches, including the Super League quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final, will be televised, with the final scheduled to be played at the Bay Oval in Tauranga. Both Super League semi-finals will be held at Christchurchâ€™s Hagley Oval. The 11th edition of the Under-19 World Cup will be played across seven venues in four cities – Whangarei, Tauranga, Christchurch and Queenstown – over 22 days. This is the third time the tournament is being held in New Zealand, after 2002 and 2010.
The captains of the teams coming through the Qualifiers are looking forward to the tournament, which is a stepping stone in the development of all participants – players and match officials. Entry to the grounds will be free for the ICC U19 World Cup giving cricket fans in New Zealand a superb opportunity to see tomorrowâ€™s stars today. The event will replicate a major ICC tournament in terms of organization and playing facilities giving players their first taste of competing on the global stage.
Group A: West Indies, South Africa, New Zealand, Kenya
Group B: India, Zimbabwe, Australia, PNG
Group C: Bangladesh, England, Namibia, Canada
Group D: Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ireland.