Riding on a wave of emotional and boisterous support from home fans, Bangladesh has delivered consistently in familiar conditions to join India as the only unbeaten teams in the 16-nation tournament.
A win over the West Indies will steer Bangladesh into its maiden final where three-time champion India is waiting for the title clash in Mirpur on Sunday, 14 February.
However, the task ahead is far from easy against a West Indies team that endured a roller-coaster ride over the past two weeks to step closer to a shot at the title that has eluded it so far.
The West Indies entered the final when the tournament was held for the only other time in Bangladesh in 2004, losing by 25 runs to Pakistan, a team it stunned in the quarter-final on Monday.
Skipper Shimron Hetmyer’s boys began the tournament on the wrong foot by losing to England by 61 runs, but then brushed aside Fiji by 262 runs before scoring a thrilling, but controversial, two-run win over Zimbabwe to qualify for the quarter-final.
With Zimbabwe needing three runs to win in the final over with one wicket in hand, bowler Keemo Paul ran-out last man Richard Ngarava by whipping off the bails at the non-striker’s end before he had delivered the ball.
The West Indies played its best match against Pakistan, chasing down a target of 228 with 10 overs to spare on the back of aggressive half-centuries from Hetmyer and Tevin Imlach.
The other men Bangladesh need to be wary of are all-rounder Gidron Pope and fiery fast bowler Alzarri Joseph, who has clocked above 145 kmph in a few spells.
West Indies coach Graeme West said his wards understood the challenge ahead, but were keen to prove themselves in the biggest game of their lives so far.
“Clearly the challenges of playing in Bangladesh are different from those in the Caribbean,” he said.
“We recognise the significance of the game. Bangladesh has some of the finest under-19 players in the world. We realise we are not taking on just 11 players, but an entire nation.
“But since the England game we feel things have started to come together for us. Players have taken time to adapt and adjust. The Pakistan game showed signs that the players now recognise what is required to be successful in Bangladesh.”
Bangladesh has not looked back since defeating the tournament’s defending champion South Africa by 43 runs in the opening match on 27 January.
The home team routed unheralded Fiji and Namibia on way to the quarter-finals, where it overcame Nepal by six wickets in an impressive all-round display.
Seamer Mohammad Saifuddin is the team’s leading bowler with nine wickets, but it is the spin duo of left-armer Saleh Ahmed (eight wickets) and off-spinner and captain Mehidy Hasan (seven) that is expected to contain the free-stroking West Indies batsmen.
Nothing less than a place in the final will satisfy Bangladesh’s cricket-crazy millons who have seen the senior team reach the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup and then defeat Pakistan, India and South Africa in one-day series at home.
Bangladesh coach Mizanur Rahman insisted his team will not be affected by the expectations of home fans.
“From the very beginning we have tried to instill in the boys the fact that the World Cup games should be treated as any other match,” Mizanur said.
“You take one game at a time. You do the processes right and be the better side on the day and you become successful. We do not want them to think about the pressure of playing in front of a big crowd or the fact it is a semi-final or a final.”
Minazur added that the threat of West Indies’ fast bowlers did not worry him.
“We played against them ahead of the tournament and we won that series 3-0,” he said. “The boys are confident as we know about them. They do not rely only on fast bowlers. We have to plan for others too.”
Asked what could be a winning score in Mirpur, Minazur said: “Something in the region of 250 is the primary target, anything above that is a bonus.”