By John L. Aaron
If the Scotland match was a walk in the park for the USA, then the Ireland match was more like a scary adventure into the forest at night for the USA bowlers, as a pair of massive pedunculate oak trees stood in their way at the edge of the forest named Porterfield and O’Brien, followed by a sessile oak bit further in, named Cusack.

Ireland winning the toss and electing to bat scored a massive 202 for 4 in the 20 overs under bright skies and 70-degree weather at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

It was a shoot out by the Irish opening pair of Niall O’Brien and skipper William Porterfield, as the two opening batsmen attacked the USA bowlers with ferocious strike rates north of 160, demonstrated by Niall O’Brien’s 84 off 50 balls (10x4s, 1×6) and Porterfield’s 45 off 28 balls (5x4s, 1×6). Three paces deeper into the forest, there stood Alex Cusack with 46 runs off 30 deliveries (2x4s, 2x6s) with a strike rate of 153.33

A smaller oak in the pedunculate family named Kevin O’Brien was chopped down by Lennox Cush for three runs off three balls, while Trent Johnson and Gary Wilson had 12 and 5 runs respectfully in not out contributions to the Irish total of 202 for 4, handing Team USA a hefty target of 10 plus runs per over.

Ireland’s wickets fell at 83, 172, 177 and 186. Bowling for the USA Allen had the best figures of 3-0-29-2, followed by Cush 4-0-36-1 and Verma 2-0-23-1. It was not a good day at the office for the USA bowlers as they struggled to up their production rate of chopping down the massive Irish oaks in the Twenty20 forest.

Orlando Baker found himself in a weird position to play this ball. Photo courtesy of International Cricket Council.

If you thought it couldn’t get any worse, getting back out of the forest proved more disastrous than ever before, as the USA in response to Ireland’s 202 for 4 was faced by two oncoming bulldozers named Peter Connell, and yes, Trent Johnston, who seemed intent on clearing everything in their path. The two combined to bulldoze down the first six USA batsmen for a total of 31 runs in eight overs. Therein, was the collapse of the Team USA under the weight of the Irish, as the USA stumbled out of the forest in defeat with a final score of 124 for 6.

The carnage started as early as the first over, with the USA losing Marshall, 0 and Cush, 2, followed two overs later by Dhaniram, 0 and Wright, 2. Skipper Steve Massiah from whom much is still expected on this tour walked into a first-ball duck in the fourth over, followed by Allen, 6, with the tins showing a paltry 25 runs.

As a reader you may ask what happened from 25 for 6 to 124 for 6? Well two things happened, and they bear the names Aditya Thyagarajan and Orlando Baker. The two middle-order chainsaw batsmen combined to add respectability to the USA total, scoring 72 and 28 off of 67 and 31 balls respectively. Thyagarajan’s steadfast knock included 11 boundaries, while Baker’s patient role at the other end included a solitary six. Were it not for these two stalwarts in the batting line up, the USA team would have bled green blood.

Team USA’s wickets fell at 4, 6, 7, 8, 11 and 25 before the 99-run seventh wicket partnership between Thyagarajan and Baker.

Did the USA become complacent after their convincing victory over Scotland? That’s a question the players and coaches can best defend, but before they get comfortable licking their most recent wounds or gloating over an ignominious 1-1 record so far, here comes the Afghanistan marching band with clashing symbols and a drum roll at 2-0.

Ireland’s 78-run victory over the USA should put things in perspective for the USA, as they prepare for Afghanistan tomorrow. This is where the rubber hits the road and the players must realize that great accomplishments are only as effective as the effort put out as a team, a la the Scotland match, when the bowlers combined with the batsmen and to a lesser extent the fielders, got the job done.

Ireland’s 202 in a 20-overs match is probably the team’s highest Twenty20 total and obviously would have presented a problem to any opponent, requiring more that a run off every delivery. However, respectability can be accomplished through application and it appears this match was lost before the second inning got underway. The USA walked into a dense forest and could not find its way back out in the darkness. Hopefully, this match would shed some light on the things that need to be readjusted, starting with mental preparation.