Pakistan will start their defence of the Under-19 World Cup by playing the hosts Malaysia on February 17 as they bid to become the first team to win a hat-trick of titles. The tournament was officially launched in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday as the ICC announced the schedule.
Pakistan are the only team to have won back-to-back titles at this level, having triumphed in 2004 and 2006 in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka respectively and start as top seeds in Malaysia. India, the winners from 2000 and beaten finalist last year, are seeded second, with Australia (winners in 1988 and 2002) seeded third and England (winners in 1998) fourth as those two sides were losing semi-finalists in 2006.
All four will be in action on the opening day with Pakistan meeting Malaysia at Johor Cricket Academy in Johor, India facing Papua New Guinea (PNG) at Kinrara Cricket Academy in Kuala Lumpur, Australia taking on Namibia at Penang Sports Club in Penang, and England facing Ireland at Selangor Turf Club in Kuala Lumpur.
The 16 participating teams will be battling for a place in the final on March 2 in Kuala Lumpur. Besides the ICC's 10 full members and hosts Malaysia, five qualifiers - Namibia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Ireland, and Bermuda - will take part in the two-week long tournament.
"I am looking forward to what should be a great tournament,"
"Over the years, U-19 World Cup has proven to be a great breeding ground for some of the best players in the world. Many have progressed from this level into their respective senior teams and I've no doubt the experience of playing at this event helped them no end when they got their chance at the top level."
"For the first time, the event is being hosted by one of our Associate Members - and it is great to see Malaysia staging another ICC tournament. Another first is the fact that apart from hosting the tournament, Malaysia will be participating in their first World Cup. It will also be the debut performance of Bermuda, which qualified for this event through the Americas Region earlier this year."
YAM Tunku Imran, president of the Malaysian Cricket Association, said:
"We thank the ICC for recognising the development programmes that we have implemented and seeing the potential that Malaysia has as a cricketing nation.
"Through the years we have been able to host many international events and we believe that we will be able to host an event of this magnitude and prestige successfully. Furthermore, we have impressive cricket grounds of international standards complete with necessary facilities to accommodate an event of this nature."
Groups (seedings in brackets)
Group A (to be based in Johor) - Pakistan (1), Zimbabwe (8), New Zealand (9), Malaysia (16)
Group B (to be based in Kuala Lumpur) - India (2), West Indies (7), South Africa (10), PNG (15)
Group C (to be based in Penang) - Australia (3), Sri Lanka (6), Nepal (11), Namibia (14)
Group D (to be based in Kuala Lumpur) - England (4), Bangladesh (5), Bermuda (12), Ireland (13)
February 10 - Teams arrives
February 11-14 - Warm-up matches
February 15 - Opening ceremony
February 17-22 - First group stage
February 24-March 1 - Super League and Plate competitions
March 2- Final