By Lloyd Jodah
Nepal has eight of the world’s highest mountains, and today all of them seemed to be standing in the way of Team USA getting to Division 4 in the ICC World Cricket League.
The excitement over recent initiatives by USA Cricket stood to be enhanced tremendously if the USA team could qualify for Italy – Bella Italia…dove si mangia bene…Campione del Mondo di Calcio…e pure si gioca Cricket (Beautiful Italy where dining is amazing…Soccer World Cup Champions…and yes, cricket is played there). It was with this in mind as Team USA took the field against Nepal.
On a warmish day, temperatures in the 70’s Usman Shuja and Kevin Darlington opened the bowling for USA. Shuja, an MBA student at Northwestern University, immediately seemed to get Anil Kumar Mandal caught, but the appeal was turned down. But Mandal didn’t benefit for long, going in Shuja’s next over clean-bowled. Darlington in the meantime Dipendra Chaudhary lbw, then bowled Shakti Prasad Gauchan and Nepal was 16 for 3 off 6.4 overs!
USA looked to apply the pressure, but the two batsmen at the crease now were Sharad Vesawkar who had scored the only century of the tournament so far, and Paras Khadka (capt.) who had scored three half-centuries for Nepal in the previous four matches. The two batsmen struggled though against the tight bowling before Orlando Baker got Khadka to play on to his stumps for 12, made off 45 balls.
Baker then turned the heat up on the Nepal batsmen by getting Vesawkar caught behind for 15, made off 39 balls. Nepal was reeling at 53 for 5 off 23.4 overs!
Gyanendra Malla (vice-capt.), 52 off 81 balls with 5 fours, and Mahaboob Alam, 38 off 44 balls, 2x4s, 1×6 then put on 62 runs to give the 10,000 plus crowd something to cheer about. The crowd had grown steadily throughout the innings. Lennox Cush got the dangerous Malla lbw whilst Alam was run out, and at the end of 50 overs Nepal scored only 162 runs for the loss of nine wickets.
Needing to score at 3.24 runs an over USA could feel confident of getting the target, however they wanted to do so at a quick pace to ensure having the tournament’s best run-rate. They needed to do so in 35 overs or less.
For USA Kevin Darlington 3 for 23 off 10 overs bowled excellently, whilst Usman Shuja 8 overs, 1 wicket for 19 runs, Timroy Alley 10 overs for 17 runs and Orlando Baker 6 overs, 20 runs, 2 wickets had good spells.
USA lost the early wicket of Orlando Baker, 7 with the score at 17 for 1, but this brought in captain Steve Massiah who has performed with the bat in this tournament. Together with Carl Wright 14, Massiah took the score slowly to 42 before Wright erred and was dismissed lbw.
Massiah took two sixes over long-off to up the scoring rate as he was joined by Sushil Nadkarni. Then with the score at 88, Team USA had a scare when they lost both Massiah and Rashard Marshall with no runs added to the total. Massiah made 42 in 58 balls with 34s and 2x6s.
With Adytia Thyagajaran 18* holding steady at one end though, Nadkarni took control and clobbered four sixes and three fours in his 57 off 59 balls. A six over cover-point, and another over mid-wicket brought up his 50. At this point the emotions of the more than 10,000 Nepalese fans boiled over and onto the field of play, and the riot police had to be called in to control the crowd. Rocks were hurled onto the field and the teams were rushed to safety, with play interrupted.
When play resumed about 45 minutes later under the Duckworth-Lewis system with the USA needing to reach 157 off of 46 overs, Team USA cruised easily to victory and a ticket to Italy in August, with a boundary by Man-of-the-Match Sushil Nadkarni. Team USA reached 159 for 5 in 33.3 overs eclipsing the required run rate 3.24 set by Nepal with its own of 4.74 per over.
Andiamo al’ Italia a giocare Cricket. (We’re going to Italy to play Cricket) – Shabash!