Maphaka spearheads Proteas in U-19 semi against reigning champs India
When checking the cricket history books, the ICC U-19 World Cup semifinal track record does not bode well for the host nation to reach the final.
It has been done three times — twice by Australia in 1988 and 2012 and Sri Lanka in 2000.
When South Africa, who have only lost once in the 2024 edition, meet an unbeaten India at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Tuesday (10am) they will hope to add their name to the list.
The last time they reached an U-19 World Cup semifinals was in 2014 in UAE where they were eventually crowned champions.
That team was captained by Aiden Markram and Kagiso Rabada was their strike bowler.
This time the Junior Proteas will be led by Juan James. Kwena Maphaka, who has been the major talking point of the tournament, will have the prestige of leading a bowling attack that has been nothing short of dominant.
“When we started the tournament the objective was to make it to the semifinals and the final and that is becoming somewhat of a reality,” James said.
“The guys are performing consistently and it’s team effort and individual performances that we are looking for.”
Quick bowler Maphaka, 17, has been in sensational form with the new ball for most of the tournament.
He is the World Cup’s leading wicket-taker with 18 wickets and his ability to get some movement early could be difficult for the India top order to handle.
If South Africa are to defeat the reigning champions, Maphaka will need to make early inroads and that is something India wicketkeeper Innesh Mahajan said his team are wary of.
The Indians had a dress rehearsal against the hosts in the Tri-Series before the global showpiece commenced in January and Mahajan said he hoped that would help them.
India’s strength in the tournament has been their batting and Musheer Khan has played a major part in this with two centuries and a half-century, recording the most runs at the event.
India have batted first in every match during their unbeaten run in South Africa and will back Khan and his fellow top order to put another big score on the board against the hosts.
With the ball, India will bank on spinner Saumy Pandey, who is third on the list of wicket-takers in the competition with 16 scalps.
“We are looking forward to the game,” Mahajan said.
“In the mini-tournament we got to know them. We have plans for them and we will try to execute them.
“We have been watching them closely. We have to adapt to the conditions in Benoni.
“We have seen how in the previous matches the pitch has reacted and we have to be prepared.”
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