WITH the 2018 Under-19 World Cup heading towards the finals phase, three nations- New Zealand, England and India- remain unbeaten. The English boast the highest net run-rate of 4.165, and India have flexed their muscles- particularly in their thrashing of Australia early in the tournament. However, a hot favourite has emerged- the hosts.

Indeed, an almost impregnable top-order has powered New Zealand to three belting victories from as many games. The Kiwi dominance is well-represented by the fact that three of the top four most prolific run-scorers are Blackcaps, with opener Jakob Bhula atop the list with 307 overall runs.

The hefty weight of runs by which New Zealand have scored is certainly the most clear indication of their dominance. In the modern game, though, the rate at which runs are scored cannot be ignored. Finn Allen- the tournament’s second-highest run-scorer- has perhaps established himself as the competition’s most dangerous player for this reason. The Blackcaps’ number three bat has thumped 232 runs at an astonishing strike rate of 147.77, his most notable knock being the 90 from just 40 deliveries he powered against Kenya. The innings, consisting of six maximums and eight fours, surely sounded alarms to the rest of the competition.

Another player of prodigious prominence, Rachin Ravindra, poses a threat that opposition have failed to quaint. The left-handed opener has caned a century and a half century from three innings, coupled with an efficacious display of left-arm orthodox bowling which has seen the Wellington-product take nine wickets at an average of 10.55.

While it could be argued England seem just as likely to earn silverware, as their three wins have manufactured the highest net run-rate in the tournament, they are yet to defeat a nation of the more acclaimed nature, with wins against Bangladesh, Canada and Namibia. In contrast, the well-renowned cricketing might of the South Africans was no match for the inspired New Zealanders, that particular match finishing in uncompetitive fashion- a Kiwi triumph to the tune of 71 runs.

There is another obstacle, however, in the way of New Zealand World-Cup conquest. It comes in the form of a dangerous Indian side, who dismantled Australia earlier in the tournament, with an even 100-run victory. But, though the Indians too pose substantial batting power, they have thus far not matched the same run-scoring rate as New Zealand. Added to this, the Indian side, if they are to seriously challenge New Zealand, must negotiate the unfamiliar conditions offered by the Land of the Long White Cloud.

With the home advantage, a menacing batting lineup and formidable form, expect New Zealand to continue their dominance as the business end of the tournament awaits.

Owen Leonard

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