By Supriya Desai
U.S.A. Cricket celebrated its first Regionals competition at the fabulous Church Street Park grounds in Morrisville, North Carolina, and conducted during the 4-Day Independence day weekend.
East Zone and Central Zone played two 50 over games and one T20 match in the Regional Series. Here is the report.
Day 4, T20 Match July 5:
East Zone wins in a last-ball thriller against Central Zone.
The T20 match on the final day of the intra-regionals in Morrisville, between East and Central zones, ended in a nail-biting thriller.
Chasing a modest score of 82 runs, East Zone took it to the wire to achieve this target. Holly Charles’s daring six in the last over helped East relieve the pressure built by Central Zone bowling sensation Geetika Kodali who took two wickets for seven runs in 3 overs. Earlier on, Aafia Khazi had tied the East batters with some excellent bowling. Aafia took 1 for 6 in 2 overs. Central Zone bowled well in the slog overs keeping everyone on edge, and the match opened till the final ball.
Earlier in the day, East had won the toss and put Central in to bat. East bowler Onika Wallerson got an early breakthrough when she got her U.S.A. national teammate Nadia Gruny clean bowled in the fourth delivery of the first over. She continued with an inspiring spell and ended up with two for nine in four overs with one maiden.
Wallerson was supported by East Zone captain Lisa Ramjit and 14-year old Taranum Chopra. They both kept a good economy in their first spells. The third delivery from Lisa, after two dot balls, tempted Geetika to go for a big hit, and she was clean bowled in the attempt. Lisa’s amazing spell got her one wicket for two runs in two overs. The other bowlers who picked wickets for East were Anika (1 for ten runs in 2 overs) and U.S.A. national player Samantha Ramautar (1 for 17 runs in 4 overs).
The Central zone batters were subdued, and only two of them reached double figures. Skipper and U.S.A. national player Shebani Bhaskar with 12 runs off 11 balls with one boundary, and Jessica Wiilathgamuwa with 29 runs off 38 balls with one boundary were the two exceptions.
The modest 83-run target seemed comfortable and achievable. East opener U.S.A. national player Melanie Henry was on fire from the word go. Her galvanized knock of 25 runs in 24 balls with two boundaries and one maximum set the tone. Her partner at the crease, young Disha Dhingra, supported well, scoring 22 runs in 46 balls with one boundary.
What should have been an easy win for East ended up with some anxious moments, and the game went to the wire due to a drastic drop in the run rate after Melanie Henry’s departure. The middle overs were full of dot balls and no boundary hits. The match headed towards a close finish with eight runs needed in the final over. Holly Charles and Anika Kumar held their nerves and played remarkably well. With a big hit over the fence, off the second ball, Charles relieved the pressure. But after she took a single off the third ball, Kumar faced two dot balls but got the required winning run off the last ball. East defeated Central in this nail-biting thriller giving them their first win in the tournament.
It was a perfect finale to the celebration of cricket and the weekend U.S.A. Cricket Regional Series.
DAY 3: Second 50-over match:
Central Zone continued their winning stride as they beat East by seven wickets.
The celebration of cricket received a perfect lift and set the mood for the 4th of July holiday spirit. The event added glitz with Morrisville town officials, council members, Morrisville Mayor T.J. Cawley, Mayor Mark Stohlman, Morrisville Cardinals owners, and other dignitaries.
The central zone won the toss and elected to bowl. The openers for East, Candacy Atkins-Martin, and Nithya Shivanandhan took to the crease. An early breakthrough came when Jessica Wiilathgamuwa took Nithya Shivanandhan’s wicket in the second over of the match. Nithya’s exit brought in the former Pakistani international player Nain Abidi to the crease. Candacy Atkins-Martin and Nain Abidi both stayed at the wicket and showed intent. Candacy’s 15 runs off 50 balls and Nain’s valuable 26 runs of 33 balls with one boundary built up the East score. The other noteworthy contributors were Onika Wallerson, who scored 16 runs off 42 balls, which included one boundary, and Taranum Chopra, who scored 19 runs off 54 balls with one boundary.
The highlight of East’s innings was the energetic and valuable partnership of Moksha Chaudhary and Disha Dhingra in the final overs of the innings. Moksha scored 13 runs in 17 balls with one boundary, while Disha scored 16 runs in 50 balls. East set a total of 163 runs to chase.
The pick of the bowlers for Central was Geetika Kodali with two wickets for 25 runs in 10 overs and Aafia Khazi, who took three wickets for 12 runs in 6 overs, including the prized scalp of Nain Abidi. The other wicket-takers were the mother and daughter duo of Aparna Bhadriraju (1 wicket for 29 in 8 overs) and Bhumika Bhadriraju 1 wicket for 18 runs in 10 overs) and Jessica Wiilathgamuwa (1 wicket for 30 runs in 8 overs).
The innings break had a special event planned to celebrate women’s and girl’s cricket.
To keep up with the holiday spirit and promote the sport to the young aspiring girls and youth, Triangle Cricket League, in conjunction with the U.S.A. Cricket had planned some fun-filled activity sessions during the innings break.
Players from both teams and U.S.A. women’s National head coach Julia Price interacted with the young aspiring players in a fun-filled, skilled activity session.
The second innings began with the Central Zone chasing the set target of 163 runs. Openers Saba Shah and Jessica Wiilathgamuwa took to the crease. Saba Shah looked confident and took to the run chase from the word go. The aggressive approach from Central players from the word go resulted in a mix-up in the first over, resulting in Jessica Wiilathgamuwa’s run out. The exit of Jessica brought Mitali Patwardhan to the crease. The Carolina pair Saba and Mitali at the crease brought stability from the early loss. Saba scored 24 runs in 48 balls and hit two boundaries before she was caught at deep square leg by Nain Abidi off 14-year-old Taranum Chopra’s bowling. Saba’s exit brought U.S.A. national player and Skipper Shebani Bhaskar to the crease. Shebani and Mitali were carrying it deep into the innings when former Punjab state player Moksha Chaudhary struck and dislodged the pair. Mitali was caught behind by Melanie Henry off Moksha’s delivery after scoring 28 runs off 119 balls with two boundaries. That brought U.S.A. national player Geetika Kodali to the crease and the 2 U.S.A. National players remained unbeaten, taking their team to a comfortable win. Shebani scored 55 runs off 81 balls with three boundaries, and Geetika scored 15 runs off 28 balls with one boundary.
Central beat East by seven wickets to round up the 50 over games 2-0
DAY 2 – First 50-over match
Bhumika Bhadriraju’s magic spell helps Central defeat East by five wickets.
Overnight rain had delayed the start of play but did not dampen the spirit of young Bhumika Bhadriraju, whose stellar performance dominated the day. Excellent work from the volunteers and ground staff helped in the recovery of the pitch, and play started at 1:00 pm.
East won the toss, and captain Lisa Ramjit chose to bat first. Excellent bowling from Jessica Wiilathgamuwa kept East tied up, and the pressure resulted in an unnecessary run out of Disha Dhingra. 14-year-old Taranum Chopra stabilized East’s innings along with her captain Lisa Ramjit before Chopra charged out to a slower delivery by D. Sivakumar and got stumped. That brought in the former Pakistani international player and anchor batter Nain Abidi to the crease. What looked like an excellent start from Nain did not last long, however. The magic spell from Bhumika Bhadriraju started, which resulted in the dismissal of the prized wicket of N. Abidi. That was the turning point. The score at this point was 98 for 2 in 23.1 overs. Wickets kept falling regularly, and the U.S.A. National player and East Zone Captain Lisa Ramjit’s composed innings of 20 in 51 balls came to an end when she was caught at deep mid-wicket by Geetika off Bhumika’s delivery. Bhumika’s sensational spell of 5 for 5 in 5.1 overs was ably supported by Aafia Khazi, who took 3 for 15 in 6 overs. The East was bundled out for 108 in 31.1 overs.
East took on the challenge of defending the runs and started well. Moksha Chaudhary struck early and took the prized wicket of opener Saba Shah. She then continued her inspiring spell with the dismissal of Mitali Patwardhan. The exit of Mitali brought the captain and U.S.A. national player Shebani Bhaskar to the crease. Shebani did not last at the crease and got dismissed early. 14-year-old Taranum Chopra deserves credit for her excellent bowling, which helped East get the prized wicket of Shebani Bhaskar. It was a big breakthrough for the East, and there was hope for getting it through. Shebani’s exit brought Geetika to the crease. Bringing Anika Kumar into the attack produced results. The sealed end, which had the unperturbed Jessica Wiilathgamuwa, was dislodged. Anika Kumar’s excellent spell also kept the run rate down.
The exit of Jessica brought U.S.A. national player Nadia Gruny in the middle. With Geetika and Nadia at the crease, it was not an easy task for East, but their U.S.A. national teammate and captain Lisa Ramjit brought herself in to break the partnership. Lisa was successful in her mission and got Geetika L.B.W. Geetika scored 16 of 58 balls. Geetika’s exit did not let Nadia Gruny lose her focus. Her experience and calm demeanor not only held her nerves well but supported the young non-striker Bhumi. Nadia’s unbeaten 34 off 62 balls with three hits to the fence sealed the victory for Central. Central won against East by five wickets to take home the first win in the series.
To no one’s surprise, Bhumika was declared Player-of-the-Match. The match was marred by numerous wides by bowlers on both sides, with the glorious exception of Bhumika.
DAY 1 – T20 Game abandoned due to torrential rain.