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Sport
Kit Bag

USA cricket provides a surprising show

  |  November 15, 2013

It wasn't even nearly the "Miracle on Ice," but you could reasonably call it the "Unexpected on the Wicket."

At the World Twenty20 Qualifiers at Zayed Cricket Stadium on Friday, USA cricket and Canada met in the latest edition of the world's oldest international cricket fixture (seriously). As history would have it, the "British Empire's Canadian Province" traveled to the States way back in 1844 for a match against the Americans in Bloomington Park, New York, launching international cricket as a concept.

Canada won that match by 23 runs, and the two countries have played ... sparingly, ever since. Mostly due to America's cricket ambivalence (if you're being generous).

But there they were on Friday. In front of a mostly nonexistent crowd with certainly no more than a dozen nationals in total representing either side in attendance, in what should have been a sleepy, run-of-the-mill affair between two sides nobody really expects to actually qualify for the 2014 World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.

As Paul Radley wrote for us today, though, the format lends itself to surprises, as the Papua New Guinea victory over Ireland in a warm-up showed.

"This tournament is packed with tales like PNG’s – of human spirit triumphing over logic."

The United States squad is comprised almost entirely of expatriates born in the West Indies, India and Pakistan and does, admittedly, feature a couple ringers – like Adam Sanford, who owns 11 Test caps with West Indies (and took two wickets on Friday, though served up 28 runs in three overs), and Neil McGarrel (one wicket and 18 runs in four overs), who's appeared in four Tests with WI (neither has appeared internationally with West Indies since 2004).

But still, Canada, with a comparably well-developed cricketing culture (they finished last in the 50-over 2011-13 ICC World Cricket League Championship, but they were there, and they've participated in the Twenty20 Qualifiers since their inception in 2008), put up a perfectly defencible total of 137 for 6 by competition standards.

Especially against USA, a side that have gone 3-7 in qualifiers since first participating in 2010.

And it seemed like it would hold for a while. By the first ball of the 11th over USA had lost five wickets for 61, leaving them with a required run rate of about 8.5 per over.

But at about the same time an influx of labourers showing up to catch a bit of cric after the work day began to give the stadium a semblance of an actual crowd, USA started making it interesting.

Srini Santhanam, born in Chennai, India and Timroy Allen, a Westmoreland, Jamaica-born 26 year old partnered after Jamaican-born Orlando Baker was dismissed for a duck.

By the arrival of the 16th over, America needed exactly 50 runs from the final five overs. They picked it up ever so steadily.

A boundary, a two and three singles from the 16th.

A boundary, a two, a wide and two singles from the 17th.

A three, a two and three singles from the 18th.

And in the 19th, Allen swatted a six that made it feel like the US really would pull it off. The crowd rose and cheered and didn't even seem to mind that it was doing so for Americans.

Even in the final over, though, they still needed another 10 runs. Santhanam picked up a single, Allen batted for two, and then did it again, clearly exhausted as he arrived back at the crease.

He had one more single in him (giving him exactly the half-century he finished with), and suddenly the US needed just four from two deliveries. On the penultimate ball, Santhanam drove a boundary backwards of point. America won.

The UAE coach Aaqib Javed told our Amith Passela of the tournament, “In my opinion if you compare teams in the four-day games, the stronger team has a 80-20 chance of winning over the weaker side, in the 50 over-a-side format it is about 70-30 and in the T20 the equation is 60-40.”

On Friday as the sun began to set, the 40 beat the 60 at the death. It wasn't a miracle, but it was a pretty unexpected pleasant surprise.