England vs. Pakistan U-19 Cricket 2013: Key Players in Crucial Grace Road Battle

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistAugust 13, 2013

SLEAFORD, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06: Sami Aslam of Pakistan hits out during the Under 19 International Tri-series match between England and Pakistan at Sleaford Cricket Clun on August 6, 2013 in Sleaford, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The U-19 Tri-Nation tournament is not going to plan for England. An opening defeat to Pakistan was followed by a 38-run loss to Bangladesh, leaving the hosts in a perilous position and struggling to reach August 19's final.

England notched their first win on August 12 against Bangladesh and they now face a thorough examination against a Pakistan side that continues to dominate with some stirring cricket.

Pakistan remain unbeaten in four tournament ties. A no result against Bangladesh was followed by a win against England. Two convincing successes followed, as Pakistan beat Bangladesh by eight and seven wickets across their next two encounters.

Form suggests this result is only going one way, but which key players can make all the difference at Grace Road?


Will Rhodes (England)

Rhodes is a decent all-rounder and has the key to secure England their second victory during this difficult tournament. His teammates may be largely crumbling under the pressure, but Rhodes has undoubtedly outlined himself as one of the Young Lions' top performers during the competition.

His 102 in the first match against Pakistan gave England an excellent chance of upsetting their opposition. Just 46 runs separated the two sides first time round, suggesting Rhodes needs his teammates to aid his fight if the hosts are to gain another win.

The Yorkshire-based player has also contributed significantly with the ball. He took two wickets in the previous game against Pakistan, halting the progress of key men such as Sami Aslam and Hussain Talat.

He also grabbed a wicket in the victory and losses against Bangladesh and is easily England's most consistent player heading into the crunch tie.

Rhodes just needs someone else to shoulder responsibility. If any other England batsman can equal his numbers going into the match, the hosts have a real chance of providing the visitors with a unexpected loss.

Harry Finch's 100 not out in the recent win against Bangladesh suggests Rhodes may have a partner to help intimidate the opposition.


Sami Aslam (Pakistan)

Pakistan captain Aslam is rarely phased by any opposition.

As reported by ESPNcricinfo, the prolific batsman single-handedly smashed his side to victory over Bangladesh. He continues to hit any and every ball with frightening confidence and has asserted himself as the side's most important player as we head towards the competition's latter stages.

Aslam's main strength is racking up quick runs. His 58 in 64 balls during the second match against Bangladesh is a perfect example of the opposition trying to dismiss him too quickly. Aslam's talents are so strong that he knows each bowler is under pressure to take his wicket as a matter of urgency. This only adds to his confidence, as he opens up and swats balls away with a knowing assurance.

Similarly, Aslam's 120 not out in 159 balls during the first win over Bangladesh underlines a team that is bustling with firepower. His form is absolutely crucial to Pakistan's chances of victory, but as the competition progresses, Aslam is becoming a marked man.

Can England crush the youngster's momentum? The result can tip either way on such a wicket.


Hussain Talat (Pakitan)

Unlike Aslam, Talat has slowly improved during the Tri-Nation tournament. The left-handed batsman has proven himself a useful addition to the squad, especially when you consider his emerging roll as a bowler.

Two wickets in five overs during the second win over Bangladesh has given Pakistan another reason to celebrate. While Talat also scored an unbeaten 71, his emergence as a bowling force highlights a squad brimming with quality.

Both Bangladesh and England have struggled to assert any kind of dominance or consistency. Talat's quick attempts at bowling has allowed Pakistan to experiment, try out various options and allow up-and-coming players to shine.

Talat's form, combined with a strong showing from Aslam, will win any match in this competition. Every superstar needs a supporting act, and right now, Talat is the man to support Pakistan's hunt for overall victory.