File photo of India Under-19 captain Vijay Zol in action. (Getty Images)
Dubai: Having won all their group stage matches convincingly, defending champions India will have a slight edge when they lock horns with England in the quarter-finals of the Under-19 World Cup here on Saturday.
In-form India had notched up a mammoth 245-run win over New Papua Guinea in their last round-robin match to top group A and having posted 300-plus runs on a difficult batting wicket, the Vijay Zol-captained side will fancy its chances at the Dubai International Stadium.
India's victory margin was the seventh-biggest in the history of youth ODIs.
England, though, will not be an easy meat as they also have proven players in their ranks, and who have impressed in the tournament. The Indians kick-started their campaign with a 40-run victory over arch-rivals Pakistan. They struggled a bit against Scotland before pulling off a five-wicket win in their second match.
The holders roared back to form with a thrashing of New Papua Guinea on a Sharjah track that was not one of the best for batting. Leading the side, Zol has been having a decent outing, but the batsman to look out for in their last eight match will be Sanju Samson.
The 19-year-old, who plays for Rajasthan Royals in the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL), had smashed his way to a 48-ball 85 against the hapless Guinea side, giving enough indications about what the batsman is capable of when in form.
Provided the openers get starts, it could be difficult for the English bowlers to contain the Indian middle-order, with Zol and Samson holding fort. Both the openers, Ankush Bains and Akhil Herwadkar had decent outing in their last match, with the former scoring a solid half-century that stabilised the innings.
Left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav has been the most impressive Indian bowler in tournament, and he is expected to play a key role. He had returned with impressive figures of 4 for 10 against PNG, after failing to take a wicket in his 10 overs against Pakistan. He will look to maintain his reputation, being captain Zol's go-to bowler.
India can take a lot of comfort from the fact that they lead 6-1 on head-to-head with England in the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup. However, when the two sides met last, England defeated India by 31 runs with Ben Stokes scoring 100, in Lincoln in the 2010 event in New Zealand.
Zol, who was a member of the India side that won the tournament in Townsville in 2012, said: "It doesn't matter that we're playing England in the quarter-final. We have set our standards in all the three departments - batting, bowling and fielding. So, we'd like to live up to our standards.
"The league games were really good and competitive, and our team looks in perfect mood and everyone's in good nick and we are raring to go.
"Kuldeep Yadav has been our main weapon for the last one year now. He has done well in all the tournaments, even in the three World Cup matches."
As far as England are concerned, they registered big wins against New Zealand (by 115 runs) and UAE (by 213 runs). Their only blip has been the narrow one-wicket defeat to Sri Lanka.
Jonathon Tattersall with 136 runs, Ryan Higgins with 108 runs and opener Harry Finch with 103 runs have done most of the scoring for England, while Matthew Fish, Will Rhodes and offspinner Rob Sayer have taken five wickets apiece.
Rhodes said: "We're really excited about playing India. It is the defending champion and we have played some good cricket in the tournament so far. We're feeling confident and really looking forward to the game on Saturday.
"The group stage was very exciting. All the teams gave in their best and we finally made our place among the eight teams that will play the (Super League) quarter-finals."