By Lloyd Jodah
Clinching a spot in the ICC Global Qualifiers for both USA and Canada Under 19s was a cinch, now it was time to find out the true measure of these teams, and appropriately they would do it against each other! Rain then stepped in, and delayed the start of the match at the cricket stadium at Central Broward Regional Park, just so it could begin at High Noon.

The victorious USA team. Photos courtesy of Nino DiLoreto

The game was shortened to a 36 overs match; USA won the toss and opted to bat. USA’s Steven “Chris Gayle” Taylor and Cameron Mirza faced off against the Canadian pacers Manny Aulakh and 6’5 Jobhanjot Sidhu.

Taylor got off the mark with an off drive for 4. After 6 overs USA had 18 runs, then Taylor off drove again for 4, and edged another boundary over point. A beautiful cover drive for 4 by Mirza took the score to 33 after 8 overs. USA looked set for a big total then Taylor edged one off Aulakh and wicketkeeper Ramsammy took a superb diving catch! Taylor made 21, and the score was 37 for 1 wicket in 8.4 overs.

USA Captain Abhijit Joshi received some coaching by Robin Singh as an 11 year old, and had a successful Under 15 career before making it to the 2010 Under 19 World Cup, where he did not fare well with the bat. In these Qualifiers Joshi has not had the opportunity to bat much, as his team has been winning easily. He said he played with many of the current Under 19 players, at the Under 15 level, so they know each other well – a fact that auger well for team chemistry.

Captain Abhijit Joshi collect the winning trophy from former West Indies player Lance Gibbs.

Joshi hooked for 4 to get off the mark and Mirza with a pull for 4, and a single, brought up the USA 50, for 1, in 11 overs. Rayann Pathan then got Joshi lbw with an inswinger and the Captain was gone for 5.Two balls later Pathan yorked Fahad Babar and after 12 overs USA was now 50 for 3. A mixup resulted in Jodha Singh being run out, and then Mirza was caught and bowled by Pathan. USA was now struggling at 77 for 5 in 17.3 overs.

After a couple of chances Gurpreet “Shane Warne” Sandhu was then caught and bowled by Pathan to make it 88 for 6 after 20 overs. Pathan was mixing it up, yorkers followed by a bouncer in a dangerous spell of bowling, finishing with 8-1-30-4. However USA’s fast bowlers have shown their batting mettle in the past. Salman Ahmad had smashed 62* earlier in this tournament, whilst Mital Patel made 92* playing for his region’s Under 19 team.

Ahmad was unfortunate to be run out, backing up, when the ball ricocheted off the bowler’s hand into the stumps! Pranay Suri then opened up, using his feet he launched the spinners overhead and over mid off for sixes! Going for a third one, he was caught on the mid off ropes by Sidhu. USA, after 30.4 overs were 121 for 8 as the USA’s new fast bowling sensation, Rutgers’ University’s Mital Patel took strike. Shahid and Patel then took USA to 143 for 8 in their 36 overs. Pranay Suri top scored with a well played 34, showing excellent game awareness in his only innings at bat.

Cameron Mirza collects the player of the tournament award from Lance Gibbs.

Like the USA, Canada had crushed their previous opponents in this ICC Americas Qualifier, could their batting now get in good knocks?

Salman Ahmad and Hammad Shahid opened the pace attack for USA whilst Akash Shah and Nikhil Dutta took strike for Canada. After 2 overs Mital Patel replaced Ahmad and immediately would have gotten the breakthrough, but Dutta was dropped by Abdulghani who redeemed himself by making the catch 2 overs later off the same bowler, and Canada was 32 for 1 in 9.  Dutta was then run out for 12 to make it 42 for 2 in 12.

Tristan Ali and Kyle Edgehill struggled and after 20 overs their team only had 58 runs for 2 wickets. Then in a strategy lapse, Suri replaced Abdulghani, and was struck for 2 fours by Edgehill. 8 runs followed off the next over from Sandhu to make it 74 for 2 in 22. With wickets in hand and Edgehill clubbing the bad balls, the momentum had swung their way and after 25 overs Canada was 91 for 2, needing 53 runs in 16 overs with 8 wickets in hand.

Then Salman Ahmad struck! Edgehill lived up to his name and edged one onto his stumps, going for a well-played 33. Ramsammy was caught for a duck off Singh to suddenly make it 92 for 4 wickets after 27 overs. Salman then bowled Juvarajan, whilst Patel took the catch to dismiss Ali off Singh to make it 105 for 6 in 31 overs.

2 more run outs and 2 wickets by Sandhu wrapped up the Canadians in the 35th over, and USA won by 23 runs. An exciting game worthy of the buildup all week!

Joshi and his team, in defending a low total successfully against the highly competitive Canadians, show their strength as a team, and whilst, to quote Coach Robin Singh “there are areas for improvement”, Joshi can feel good about his team’s performance, and his leadership.

Salman Ahmad was named Man of the Match and Cameron Mirza the Tournament MVP for his solid mature batting. It could easily have been Salman getting the nod as Tournament MVP as the young pacer made crucial breakthroughs in most, and took wickets in all, the games. Mital Patel, the Rutgers star, was another exciting find for the USA team whilst Coach Robin Singh might even crack a smile at the performances of his spinners Sandhu, Singh and Abdulghani.

With talent like Steven Taylor at the top, Mirza anchoring the innings and the likes of Joshi and Suri to come later, the potential of the batting to score big is there, hopefully the team will get lots of match practice against their peers before the ICC Global Qualifiers.

Do we need money and overseas tours to give the team practice, as is often said? No, there is enough young talent here in the USA to challenge these players and get them ready for the next level of competition.

Lloyd Jodah is President of American College Cricket