Essex youngsters gear up: U19 World Cup preview


Essex youngsters Charlie Allison, Luc Benkenstein, and Noah Thain are all in the England squad for the Men’s Under-19 World Cup, which gets underway on Friday.

Alongside the trio, Mackenzie Jones will also don the colours of Scotland, who join England in Group B alongside hosts South Africa and West Indies.

Played at five venues across the country, the tournament will feature 16 teams split into four groups and will run from 19 January to 11 February.

The Three Lions and the Saltires, with their four Essex representatives between them, are in Group B and will both play all their group-stage matches at the JB Marks Oval in Potchefstroom, 75 miles south-west of Johannesburg.

England and Scotland kick their tournament off against one another on Saturday, before the Three Lions take on South Africa three days later, and finally entertain West Indies on 26 January.

Meanwhile, Scotland face the Windies on 24 January, and then the Proteas on 27 January, with the tournament being shown in the UK on Sky Sports.

Group B

England: Champions in 1998, England are one of five sides to have appeared in every edition of the U19 World Cup, and have won 53 of the 87 games they have played across the competition’s history.

They were runners-up in the last edition in the West Indies in 2022, defeated by four wickets by India in the Antigua final, but that represented a marked improvement on their ninth-place finish in 2020.

Alongside Allison, Benkenstein, and Thain, and under the captaincy of Ben McKinney, the Three Lions count Warwickshire’s Hamza Shaikh among their ranks, who hit 235 runs in an ODI series against Australia last summer.

Scotland: The UK neighbours have never met one another at under-19 level before, but will do so after the Scots won the European regional qualifier in August.

The Saltires topped the six-team group with four wins and a no result from their five games, beating Jersey, Norway, Italy, and host nation the Netherlands, and seeing a clash with Guernsey rained off.

Led by Owen Gould, and containing Jones in their ranks, Scotland’s top two run-scorers in the qualification tournament were Jamie Dunk, who totalled 244, and Alec Price, who amassed 208.

South Africa: Hosting the competition after the ICC moved it from its original venue of Sri Lanka, the Proteas will be appearing at their 14th tournament, and have previously won it on one occasion, in 2014.

Dewald Brevis was named player of the tournament and led the way in the run-scoring charts in 2022, though South Africa managed only a seventh-place finish and will hope to do better this time around on home soil.

Kwena Maphaka, the latest in a long line of top-level South African fast bowlers, will be appearing in his second successive World Cup and is touted as one to watch, as is powerful batter Steve Stolk.

West Indies: After the senior team missed out on the main Men’s World Cup last autumn, the Caribbean young guns will be hoping to restore some pride as they continue their run of appearing at all Under-19 tournaments.

They won the competition in 2016, but struggled to a disappointing 11th on home soil at the last event two years ago, and captain Stephan Pascal will hope to lead them to a better showing this time around.

Several players are tipped to catch the eye for the Windies, though batter Jordan Johnson and quick bowler Isai Thorne look to be the standout duo, with both having already made their First Class debuts.

Routes to the final

Should England and/or Scotland finish in the top three of their group, they will be mixed in the Super 6 stage with the sides who qualify from Group C, which contains Australia, Namibia, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe.

Wins, points, and net run rate earned against the other qualifying teams will be carried forward, and if either or both sides make it, they will play the two Group C sides who finished in another position in the first group stage.

For example, if England top their group with three wins, they will carry forward two (the ones gained against the sides that join them) and they will then play the second- and third-placed teams from Group C.

Progress from that stage would require a top-two finish, with any possible semi-final then being against the side that finishes opposite (1st v 2nd) in the other Super 6 group.

Essex have been here before

Allison, Benkenstein, Jones, and Thain may be the latest Essex representatives at the U19 World Cup, but they are by no means the first.

In fact, 18 men have appeared at the competition while on the books at Chelmsford, starting with Nasser Hussain in the very first edition in 1988.

The second incarnation of the tournament, in 1998, saw no fewer than five then-Essex players called up to the England squad, including Graham Napier.

This year’s quartet are the first set of Eagles to play at the tournament since 2016, with the 18 also including the likes of Tom Westley, Ben Foakes, Alastair Cook, and Ravi Bopara.

Cast yourself back to years gone by with some shots from several notable Eagles’ U19 World Cup appearances:

Get priority access to Vitality Blast tickets

The Eagles will host seven explosive T20 encounters at The Cloud County Ground this summer, and you can secure early access to purchase your tickets from Thursday 08 February by subscribing to our ‘Over & Out!’ e-newsletter.

Just click below to sign up: