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12th January 2010

England U19 World Cup preview

Alister McDermott, son of 71-Test Craig, and the captain Mitchell Marsh, son of 50-Test Geoff, carry well known names into the tournament, and Nicholas Buchanan — son of John, Australia’s most successful coach — could no doubt draw on expert fatherly advice. They should provide intriguing opposition for England and Ben Stokes if both countries can reach the final in Christchurch on Jan 30.

England have not won this tournament since 1998 under Owais Shah, when Michael Gough was a squad member. Since then 10 players from Riverside, including Liam Plunkett, have tried without tasting success, though Plunkett and Ben Harmison were part of a strong squad who went close under Alastair Cook, reaching the 2004 semi-finals in Bangladesh.

India, rather than Australia, start as tournament favourites without any players with famous fathers and they are in Group D with England. The two countries are scheduled to meet again in the semi-final if both emerge from their pool games and quarter-finals. The other two sides in Group D are Afghanistan, potential giant-killers, and Hong Kong, minnows captained by Jamie Atkinson, who made his first class debut for Durham University UCCE last April.

New Zealand have two Bracewells, Doug and Michael, in their squad — both nephews of Gloucestershire’s coach John Bracewell — but even as the host nation they are not regarded as likely winners.

England, with their Sussex coaching team of Mark Robinson and Carl Hopkinson, are wisely taking two weeks to acclimatise in New Zealand, starting in the fine city of Wellington before flying onwards to Christchurch, Ben Stokes’s birth place. This extraordinary link might well be a good omen.

Group A: India, England, Afghanistan, Hong Kong

Group B: South Africa, Australia, Ireland, USA

Group C: New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Canada

Group D: Pakistan, Bangladesh, West Indies, Papua New Guinea

Jan 16     Group A: ENGLAND v Hong Kong, Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln

Jan 18     Group A: ENGLAND v Afghanistan, Queen Elizabeth II Park, Christchurch

Jan 21     Group A: ENGLAND v India, Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln

Jan 23     Quarter-finals: Rangiora and Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln

Jan 24     Quarter-finals: Rangiora and Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln

Jan 25     Semi-finals: Rangiora and Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln

Jan 30     FINAL: Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln