August 9, 2011
Nepal beat US convincingly in the last match for the two teams resulting in US failing to qualify for the "real deal" in 2012 in Northern Australia. Electing to bat after winning the toss, Nepal, despite some good pace bowling from Shahid and Salman which reduced them to 78 for 4, had two large partnerships -- one of patience and one of care-free hitting to take them to 264 in the allotted 50 overs. In reply, a fiery half century by Taylor got the US to 78 for 4 in just 20 overs with Mirza and Joshi not bothering the scorers while captain Sewdial made 4 and Suri made 13. However, unlike Nepal from the same position, the US could only get to 165 in 44 overs with Salman and Shayan contributing in delaying defeat.
US finished seventh in the points table ahead of Canada, Kenya and Vanautu, all of whom will stay home when the 2012 U19 World Cup gets into full swing next summer. Clearly, there are a lot of things that conspired to prevent the US to make it to the world stage but what was glaring through the tournament was their shoddy fielding and catching and, more starkly, their lack of consistent batting prowess, save Taylor who accumulated close to 450 runs in 9 matches. Without him, the seventh place finish would not even have been possible for the US.
August 7, 2011
US laid an egg against Canada who played inspired cricket. Man of the match Aulakh ripped through the US lineup who were shown wanting in technique as the pitch did offer early assistance. Electing to bat first, the US could only muster 101 runs and couldn't even bat 50 overs. The Canadians got the runs with the loss of five wickets with only Shahid, who shockingly bowled one change, showing any fire in his bowling.
This loss makes US's last match versus Nepal all important. A win will all but guarantee US passage to the CWC while a loss, particularly a huge loss, will likely mean an exit from CWC. A close loss will bring NR-based tie-breaking scenarios into play which will reveal themselves at the end of Tuesday when the tournament concludes.
August 5, 2011
US made short work of Vanautu in a rain-affected match. Vanautu batting first got to 132 in 32 overs for the loss of eight wickets. The US reached 120 for 2 in 21 overs before rain ended play and US were declared winners based on D-L method. Given the weak Vanautu bowling attack, it was quite odd that a circumspect Taylor saw the US through.
US is now in fourth place with a 4-3 record. They play their arch rivals Canada next. A win will guarantee qualification while a loss will guarantee all kinds of complications.
August 4, 2011
US easily defeated Kenya to climb to 3-3 in the standings. Put into bat first, the US got to 239 for 9 in 50 overs thanks to a well-constructed 68 from captain Sewdial and a steady 41 from Joshi who were involved in a crucial 106-run partnership for the third wicket. The rest of the batting never really got untracked except for a breezy 28 by Suri towards the end of the innings. In reply, Kenya could only muster 108 in 34 overs with Ahmad getting three wickets with Shahid, Abdulghani and Suri chipping in with 2 wickets each. Many positives from this important win -- batting through 50 overs and bowling efficiently.
US climbed to fifth in the standings. They are now tied with Namibia, Canada and PNG with their 3-3 record. US play 0-6 Vanuatu Saturday while Canada faces PNG and Namibia play Scotland.
August 3, 2011
US's deficiencies in batting showed up as they lost to Scotland in their fifth match, this one in Northern Ireland. US could only muster 124 in 35 overs with many batters getting out to poor shots. Only three batsmen got into double figures -- Taylor (28), Sewdial (31) and Joshi (23) -- and none of them went to play through the innings. While Mirza and Persaud appeared wanting in terms of technique in the top order, the middle order pretty much threw their wickets to indiscreet shots, something for which they cannot have any excuses. The Scottish batsmen despite losing two early wickets to Mittal Patel stuck to proper cricket and won by eight wickets.
The next match on Friday is a big one as it is against another 2-3 team with a better NRR - Kenya. Hopefully, the US team can regroup and play sensible cricket -- bat 50 overs, bowl tightly and field like every run matters. If they can beat Kenya and Vanuatu on successive days, they will have a decent shot at qualifying going into the final two matches.
August 1, 2011
The US got past Afghanistan in a rain-affected match. They are now very much in the thick of things with 4 points, with five matches to go of. Starring for the US was pacer and man-of-the-match Mittal Patel with six wickets including an inning-ending hat-trick with Shahid chipping in with two wickets from eight probing overs. Stephen Taylor again got the US off to a flier with a brisk 49. Fellow opener Mirza made a quiet 34 while Jodhbir and Salman saw the US through with 3 balls to spare with D/L method in effect and three wickets in hand. Both Sewdial (28) and Joshi (10) of the middle order did not do justice yet again to their batting talent and got out just when they looked set while the other middle order batsman Persaud failed to open his score. This continues to be an area of some concern for the US team.
All in all, a big win for the US team as they head to Northern Ireland for the rest of the competition. They need to win at least two and possibly three of the remaining five matches, especially against Vanatu who are in the cellar, Canada who likely are true equals and Kenya who are a bit of an unknown, to finish in the top six. Scotland and Nepal wins would be an added bonus as one senses they are better on paper based on performances to date.
July 31, 2011
The US defeated Namibia by 46 runs to claim its first victory. That along with its positive NRR means they are seventh in the standings with 6 more matches to go. US batted after winning the toss and thanks to a blistering century by the in-form Steven Taylor were at 151 in 20 overs when Taylor departed. Thanks to a 40 by Persaud and an unbeaten 55 by Pranay Suri, they made it to 312 in 50 overs although more was possible on the small venue and fast outfield. Again, Sewdial, Joshi and Mirza did not do much to get back into the sort of form from where the US can really dominate proceedings. The US bowlers, but for Suri and Shahid, went for runs, early and often. Patel and Gurpreet Sandhu were particularly guilty of some loose bowling. However, Ahmad and Patel did come back at the end to cut off the Namibia rally at 266 after some nervous periods. Fielding continued to be substandard but there were one or two brilliant catches as well.
It is clear that a change in batting order is needed. Mirza is just not the opener that we thought he was from his ICC Americas performances and Joshi is going through quite a lean patch. Sewdial has to start batting like he once was capable of and hopefully still has it in him. Jodhbir has been inconsistent but that is the nature of his batting -- hit or miss -- but may be useful in the early overs when power play is on. As far as bowling is concerned, it makes no sense to not open with Shahid. Not sure what the thinking is with that. It doesn't make any sense to not play Shayan ahead of Gurpreet. Another mystifying selection choice. As has been said before in this blog, Taylor should not be keeping given the batting workload expected of him as an opener, game in and game out. The selectors in their infinite wisdom did not have a backup keeper in the 14. Either Taylor is going to tire as the tournament progresses or worse get injured. Either way, that will only hurt the team's chances.
Next match is against Afghanistan who play aggressive cricket but can be beaten with smart cricket on US's part. Lets hope the US boys do what it takes as a win against Afghanistan will be a huge boost going to Northern Ireland.
July 29, 2011
The US won the toss and surprisingly put PNG (Papua New Guinea) into bat, possibly because of the rain that reduced the match to 43 overs. PNG made hay of things and got to an imposing total of 262 for 9 with their top three batters accounting for 2/3 of those runs. US bowling was expensive with only Jodhbir going for just 25 in 8 overs. Mittal Patel did get four wickets in the slog overs but conceded 56 runs.
US started their response weakly with Mirza and Persaud out cheaply. Captain Sewdial and Joshi didn't help either getting out for low scores. Taylor was all ablaze and almost single handedly kept US in the match. There was a stirring last wicket partnership by Hammad Shahid and Mittal Patel which came within 6 runs of the total but sadly it was not to be.
The "feet" aspect of US cricket continues to be poor -- too many fielding lapses and too many run-outs/near run outs which is unlikely to improve. Given that, the US top batting order has to fire which except for Taylor has been dormant. One suggestion would be to replace Mirza with Jodhbir at the opening slot -- he is an attacking opener (opens for NWR) who can take the game away from the opposition on his day.
For what it is worth, the US NRR is the best among the bottom five but that is not much of a consolation unless they have some points as only three teams (including the US) are at 0 points. The US need a win against Namibia (who are 2-0) on Sunday to keep up their spirits and chances.
July 28, 2011
The U19 campaign started with a very close match with hosts Ireland. After being put into bat, the US team got to 177/9 in 50 thanks to rearguard action by the lower middle order after being 82/5 midway. The Irish team overhauled the score in the second last ball of the allotted 50 overs with just one wicket to spare.
The US went with three spinners and two seamers with Jodhbir Singh bowling pace as an all-rounder. Surprisingly, US U19 spearhead, Hammad Shahid was warming the bench instead of bowling on a seam-friendly track. Hope this was because he was unfit. Despite Hammad's omission, the US bowling was quite effective but their poor catching and sloppy fielding did not help at all. The US batting top order but for Taylor and Persaud failed miserably and that also had a telling effect on the outcome of the match. Next up is Papua New Guinea who lost their first match to Namibia.