Evans, Aussies peaking at right time

Victorian speedster confident the men in green and gold can reverse the result from their tournament opener in the decider

On Monday afternoon, Zak Evans' classmates were bracing for the return of school and their first day of Year 12.

But for the 17-year-old fast bowler, who attends Melbourne's Xavier College, that was the furthest thing from his mind. 

After starring with the ball for Australia Under 19s in a World Cup semi-final against Afghanistan, claiming 2-26 off nine overs in his best performance yet at the 2018 ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup, Evans was able to put his feet up and watch the batsmen make light work chasing Afghanistan's total of 181.

Now he can start thinking about representing his country in a World Cup final.

"I'd be at school actually … I know where I'd rather be," Evans said today, as the team arrived in Tauranga and the question was posed as to what he might be up to if not preparing for a World Cup final.

"I'm really enjoying the cricket over here instead of being back in Melbourne at the moment. New Zealand is a really good place, and a really good place to play cricket."

That's not to say Evans doesn't have a focus on his studies – the talented teenager has packed his school books along with his cricket gear, and they've been put to good use on tour.

April 2017: More than the game for Aussie U19s

And he's had prior experience balancing underage international cricket and school, when he represented Australia Under 19s in a three-week tour in Hobart last year and the team had a player development manager to instil helpful habits.

Those skills look set to be put to good use in 2018, which promises to be a huge year for the Victoria Bushrangers rookie as he looks set to feature in a World Cup final before balancing his VCE and cricket commitments.

Australia storm into U19 World Cup final

"It's been going well actually (balancing school and cricket)," Evans said. "They're really understanding of each other; school's understanding of my cricketing commitments, and cricket and the Bushrangers are really understanding of my education and they know that education obviously comes first.

"They've always been able to go hand in hand, so it's been really good so far."

The past month has been an entirely new experience for the multi-skilled Evans – also a highly-rated junior footballer – who has been getting a feel for life on the road and as a professional athlete.

And he's got fellow Victorian Will Sutherland as a roommate, who knows exactly what he's going through, having balanced Year 12 with a decision between pursuing a career in cricket or football late last year.

The rising star missed Australia's first two games with a minor injury, but has built form and confidence – as has the team – and is primed to have an impact in the decider against India.

Pakistan slump to record semi-final defeat

"I felt pretty good yesterday, it was good to get on the park and put a good performance together," Evans said.

"I've been working pretty hard with Ryan Harris, getting my action together, my run-up together… I was feeling good out there.

"It's probably one of our better performances with the ball so far, besides Popey's eight-for (Lloyd Pope took 8-35 against England to win Australia their quarter-final).

"We all had a contribution all-round, with 'Merls' (Jonathan Merlo) taking a four-for and a couple of wickets here and there from other people. It was a really good team performance."

The tournament has been a massive learning experience for Australia's next generation.

Gill storms to century in hectic final over

And it's only fitting the team they meet in the final – India – are the only opposition they have lost to so far.

Evans missed that match, but is confident the Australians have learnt from their first match against India, and can close the gap on the 100-run defeat they started in that tournament opener.

"We get another chance to come back at them," Evans said. "It's a good time for us to bounce back and see how we go.

"I reckon we learnt a bit about their batting and their bowling in that first game, that gave us a good idea of what they're about and how they go about their cricket. We're wanting to wipe the slate clean in a sense and focus on our game more than them.

"I think we're peaking at the right stage … everything's sort of coming together at the right time."

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