The ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2018 officially got underway in style at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch last night with an impressive ceremony showcasing New Zealand’s culture.
The ceremony was attended by representatives of all the 16 participating sides, Christchurch councillor Aaron Keown, as well as New Zealand Cricket president Debbie Hockley, who, on behalf of the ICC and NZC, welcomed the teams to the tournament.
The tournament proper gets underway on January 13 with matches spread across seven venues in the cities of Christchurch, Queenstown, Tauranga and Whangarei. The winners will be crowned in Tauranga on February 3. The teams got a chance to get into their groove with practice matches which started in Christchurch today.
The squads, officials and other spectators present at the event enjoyed the short opening programme, the highlight of which were traditional Maori dances. The cultural event was followed by photo shoots of participating teams in a festive atmosphere that saw the teams mingling with each other.
At the opening ceremony Hockley said the World Cup played an important role in developing the participants into international professionals, teaching them invaluable lessons in camaraderie, discipline, leadership, playing under pressure and appreciating the spirit of the game.
The tournament director Brendan Bourke noted that never before had an opening event taken place at an ICC U19 Cricket World Cup featuring all 16 teams, so organisers had jumped at the opportunity to create a very special occasion for them.
The teams attending the opening ceremony were enthusiastic about the event with the captains looking to make the maximum of the chances that come their way. The West Indies are the defending champions and their captain Emmanuel Stewart who was part of Shimron Hetmyer’s title-winning squad in Bangladesh in 2016 was under no illusions that much was expected of his team.
“This is always a good tournament to take part – this is my second time. Last time was a special occasion for us as we won, so we have to give a good account of ourselves and Caribbean cricket. This tournament sets the foundation for us and is very important for us all,” he said.
Fellow batsman Kristan Kallicharan and Stewart are the two survivors from the 2016 champion team.
Today in Lincoln the West Indies warmed up for their title-defence by brushing aside minnows Papua New Guinea by eight wickets, in their first official warm-up match.
They restricted Papua New Guinea to 105 all out in the 42nd over before racing to their target in the 23rd, to make a winning start to their campaign.
Bhaskar Yadram slammed an unbeaten 37 from 23 deliveries while opener Keagan Simmons and (23) and captain Emmanuel Stewart (21) produced patient innings in support.
Earlier choosing to bat first at Lincoln Green, Papua New Guinea were undermined by left-arm spinners Jeavor Royal
(2-4) and Ashmeade Nedd (2-10), along with off-spinner Alick Athanaze (2-15), all of whom picked up two wickets each.
Opener Igo Mahuru top-scored with 22 while Ovia Sam chipped in with 21, combining in the best stand of the innings by adding 28 for the third wicket.
Royal claimed Mahuru and Athanaze accounted for Sam as Papua New Guinea slipped to 70 for eight in the 32nd over – a position from which they never recovered.
In their run chase, West Indies Under-19s suffered an early setback when the free-scoring Kimani Melius was lbw to left-arm swing bowler James Tau off the fifth ball of the innings without scoring.
However, Simmons struck two fours in a 43-ball knock and Stewart, three boundaries in a 53-ball innings, rebuilding the innings patiently in a 52-run, second wicket stand.
When Stewart was stumped off off-spinner Boge Arua in the 16th over, Yadram arrived to dominate the remainder of the innings in two small but handy partnerships.
He slammed five fours and two sixes, driving stands of 24 for the third wicket with Simmons and 29 for the fourth wicket with Cephas Cooper, who finished 11 not out.
West Indies Under-19s take on Zimbabwe Under-19s in their second official warm-up on Wednesday at the same venue, before opening their Group A preliminary campaign with a tough clash with hosts New Zealand Under-19 in Mount Maunganui on January 13.
They will have added incentive to do well against the Kiwis following their seniors’ recent disastrous tour of New Zealand where they lost seven matches in Tests, One-Day Internationals and Twenty20 Internationals collectively.