It’s now 22 years since a crop of English youngsters saw off rivals from around the globe to claim their only ICC Under-19 World Cup success to date.
Owais Shah was the triumphant skipper who hoisted the trophy after overcoming New Zealand in the final at Johannesburg, while his team included future Test spinners Graeme Swann and Chris Schofield, as well as Sky Sports pundit Rob Key.
The tournament is back in South Africa for the first time since that 1998 edition, with England launching their campaign on January 20 against West Indies, live on Sky Sports Cricket (red button) and Sky Sports Mix.
S Africa U19 vs Afghanistan U19
January 17, 2020, 7:45am
England U19 vs West Indies Und
January 20, 2020, 7:45am
They also take on Australia – runners-up to India two years ago – and Nigeria in their Group B schedule, with the target a place in the final at Potchefstroom on February 9.
So who are the young guns spearheading the England challenge? We take a look at five key players to watch…
HAMIDULLAH QADRI (Kent)
Although he only turned 19 last month, off-spinner Qadri has been on the first-class scene since June 2017, when he announced his arrival at Derbyshire with debut figures of 5-60 to seal a County Championship win over Glamorgan.
That remains his best performance in county cricket, but the Afghanistan-born youngster went on to make another nine first-class appearances, as well as three in the Royal London Cup, before joining Kent at the end of last season.
Qadri’s initial call-up to the England U19 squad soon followed in the wake of his Derbyshire debut and he has established himself as one of the more economical spinners at this level.
He put in a string of consistent displays during the recent Rising Stars tri-series in the Caribbean, returning 1-34 from his 10 overs as England lost out to Sri Lanka in the final.
BEN CHARLESWORTH (Gloucestershire)
Like Qadri, the Gloucestershire all-rounder made an immediate impact at county level, hitting 77 and taking three wickets on his first Championship appearance against Middlesex in 2018.
Charlesworth has since become a regular in Gloucestershire’s four-day side and equalled his debut score in the match against Northamptonshire that secured their promotion to Division One in September.
With England already strong in the seam department, the left-hander plays primarily as a batsman, operating higher up the order as an accumulator of runs rather than a pinch-hitter.
Although he endured a relatively lean series in the West Indies just before Christmas, Charlesworth underlined his ability last summer with half-centuries against both India and Bangladesh.
GEORGE BALDERSON (Lancashire)
Appointed U19 captain for their fixtures against India and Bangladesh last summer, Balderson skippered the side to the final of the Rising Stars tri-series.
Yet to make his senior debut at county level, the left-hander opens the batting for the Red Rose’s second XI, although he tends to go in lower down the order for England.
By contrast, Balderson is primarily deployed as a medium-paced seamer for the U19s – he usually opens the bowling and finished as second-highest wicket-taker in the Caribbean with 15 scalps.
The captain returned figures of 4-47 to secure a low-scoring victory against West Indies in Antigua and picked up another four-for in England’s defeat to Sri Lanka in the final.
JORDAN COX (Kent)
The hard-hitting wicketkeeper-batsman was in sparkling form during the Rising Stars series, where he ended the tournament with more runs than any other England player – 228 at a healthy average of 45.
Cox’s performances for Kent’s second XI earned him an opportunity to open the batting for their County Championship side last season, scoring 27 on his debut against Hampshire.
He also made seven appearances in the Spitfires’ Vitality Blast campaign, as well blazing a career-best 122 not out for England U19s in a tied match against Bangladesh.
Another undefeated century followed against Sri Lanka in the Caribbean and he was England’s top scorer in the final with 77, also claiming three catches behind the stumps.
JOEY EVISON (Nottinghamshire)
A blistering half-century against Sri Lanka in the Caribbean helped to showcase the Nottinghamshire youngster’s burgeoning reputation as an all-rounder of genuine class.
Evison matched the U19 record set by Rishabh Pant three years earlier when he hammered an undefeated 50 from only 18 balls, sharing a quickfire century stand with Cox at the end of the innings.
However, his England bowling credentials have also been impressive – going for just 3.55 runs an over during the Rising Stars tri-series and picking up five wickets at 19 runs apiece.
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