It's all down to Australia v India as the U19 World Cup in South Africa reaches its climax
Ultimate guide for the U19 World Cup final
Just a few short months since Australia and India did battle in the men's ODI World Cup final, it's the teenagers' turn – the same two nations meet on Sunday night in this year's U19 World Cup final.
The tournament, in South Africa, has shone the spotlight on some of the cricket world's next generation of stars with the current Aussie crop hoping to become the first since 2010 to win this tournament.
That side featured current Australian men's stars Mitch Marsh and Josh Hazlewood, who will be in action in the second T20 against the West Indies in Adelaide when this match gets underway in Benoni, just east of Johannesburg.
Who: Australia v India
What: 2024 U19 Men's World Cup final
When: Sunday, February 11, 2024. Coin toss at 6.30pm AEDT, first ball at 7pm AEDT (10am local)
Where: Willowmoore Park, Benoni, South Africa
How to watch: Amazon Prime Video
Officials: Allahudien Palekar and Langton Rusere (standing), Rashid Riaz (third), Roland Black (fourth), Sahid Wadvalla (match referee)
Live scores: Click here for the Match Centre
Highlights, news and reactions after the match: cricket.com.au and the CA Live app
Australia: Hugh Weibgen (c), Lachlan Aitken, Charlie Anderson, Harkirat Bajwa, Mahli Beardman, Tom Campbell, Harry Dixon, Ryan Hicks, Sam Konstas, Rafael MacMillan, Aidan O’Connor, Oliver Peake, Harjas Singh, Tom Straker, Callum Vidler
India: Uday Saharan (c), Saumy Kumar Pandey (vc), Murugan Abhishek, Sachin Dhas, Dhanush Gowda, Musheer Khan, Arshin Kulkarni, Raj Limbani, Innesh Mahajan, Priyanshu Moliya, Rudra Mayur Patel, Aravelly Avanish Rao, Aaradhya Shukla, Adarsh Singh, Naman Tiwari
Neither side has any injury concerns going into the final, with both teams unbeaten in the tournament.
The story so far
India's run to what is the nation's fifth successive U19 World Cup final has been a relatively straightforward affair, although they were pushed hard by host nation South Africa in their semi-final.
India thumped Bangladesh, Ireland and the USA by big margins in the group stage, then dished out similar treatment to New Zealand and Nepal in the Super Sixes to set up their show down with South Africa.
It's been their batting has done the job, occupying the tournament's top three runs scorers. While Musheer Khan has two hundreds and a total of 338 at 67.60, he was overtaken at the top by captain Uday Saharan after his instrumental partnership in the semi-final, and now has 389 runs at 64.83.
With the ball, left-arm orthodox spinner Saumy Pandey has been India's best by a distance, with 17 wickets at 8.47 and a miserly economy of 2.44.
Australia's strength has been their balance and team unity – this is largely the same group that toured England last winter, and the players have routinely credited their bond for being a factor in pulling through some tight moments.
Australia suffered an early blow with left-hand batter Corey Wasley breaking a finger in the first match, which proved a trickier than expected run chase against Namibia of a small target, but his replacement, 17-year-old Oliver Peake has been excellent since coming in, a safe pair of hands in the field and made an assured 49 in the semi-final before given out to a dubious decision for a leg-side strangle.
After the wobble against Namibia they hammered Zimbabwe by 225 runs, then were comfortable in chasing down Sri Lanka for a six-wicket win to top their group.
In the Super Six stage they put the tournament on notice by dismantling England by 110 runs in a rain-affected match. Rain washed out their match against West Indies when they were on track for a win, with Sam Konstas having scored a century and the West indies two down in the fifth over when the heavens opened.
That was enough to put them into Thursday night's semi-final against Pakistan where Tom Straker's new-ball blitz helped curtail Pakistan to a below-par 179. A third half-century of the tournament for Harry Dixon steadied Australia's middle-order wobble and the cool head of Raf MacMillan saw the Aussies home in the final over in somewhat fortuitous circumstances, the winning runs coming off an inside edge that narrowly missed the stumps.
Captain Hugh Weibgen and Sheffield Shield capped NSW batter Sam Konstas have both scored centuries for Australia throughout the tournament, and are the lynchpins of the batting.
The prodigiously talented Dixon is Australia's top scorer at the tournament, and most consistent batter, with three half-centuries in his 267 runs at 44.50.
Straker and Queensland's flame-haired firebrand Callum Vidler each have 12 wickets for the tournament – six of Straker's coming in the semi-final – and the Aussies have enjoyed the pace-friendly conditions.
They were able to use that pace and bounce to exploit a stereotypical subcontinental weakness against Pakistan, and this pair plus the Dennis Lilee-trained WA quick Mahli Beardman will be key to replicating the early inroads to India's powerful batting that South Africa made in their semi-final.
Pace has dominated so far at Willowmoore Park in Benoni, and that could play into Australia's hands in this final. Renowned commentator Ian Bishop described it as "one of the fastest surfaces I have ever seen for an Under-19 World Cup, with significant lateral movement, bounce and carry".
Pace has dominated in the limited matches at this venue so far in this tournament too, with the spin wickets in the table below inflated by Afghanistan's spin-dominated attack in the 16th-placed playoff against the USA.
Being on the highveld, the air is thinner in Benoni which has an altitude of 1645m above sea level, but both sides have had plenty of time to adjust, having already played a semi-final here.
Weather may yet influence the game, with plenty of cloud cover expected on Sunday, while it is tipped to be quite breezy, with the possibility of a thunderstorm arriving around 2pm local time, which could impact the run chase. It's unlikely to be necessary, but there is a reserve day to complete the final on Monday if required.
Possible Starting XIs
India: Adarsh Singh, Arshin Kulkarni, Musheer Khan, Uday Saharan (c), Priyanshu Moliya, Sachin Dhas, Aravelly Avanish Rao (wk), Murugan Abhishek, Naman Tiwari, Raj Limbani, Saumy Pandey
Australia: Sam Konstas, Harry Dixon, Hugh Weibgen (c), Harjas Singh, Ryan Hicks (wk), Oliver Peake, Tom Campbell, Raf MacMillan, Tom Straker, Mahli Beardman, Callum Vidler
It seems unlikely India will change what has been a successful formula and they encountered little problems all the way through to their semi-final with South Africa. That match – where India were required to bat second for the first time the tournament – proved a thriller with a two-wicket win win, but a record 171-run fifth-wicket stand proved match-turning.
Australia has been largely settled throughout the tournament, although selectors may ponder about making a change with left-hand batter Harjas Singh having struggled to make an impact so far with 49 runs, and a top score of 17, in the tournament.
Lachlan Aitken or the 17-year-old Aiden O'Connor are the replacement options, or selectors could punt for an extra bowler and bring back Charlie Anderson, who has bowled well but only found three wickets in his four games and was dropped for the semi-final, to counter India's powerful batting line-up.
Australia take on India in the U19 World Cup final from 7pm AEDT Sunday, February 11. Watch live on Amazon Prime Video and follow the scores via the Cricket Australia Live app.