By Lloyd Jodah
Exciting news came out of Dubai for USA Cricket, but it was not Twin colors in sport – USA and Afghanistan about the USA vs. Afghanistan match, it was about IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi meeting with USA Cricket’s Don Lockerbie, Nabeel Ahmed and Ahmed Jeddy to discuss plans for the IPL in the United States, possibly as soon as 2011. That would be another huge positive leap for USA Cricket.
On the field however the USA national team did not channel the enormous significance of playing against Afghanistan to put on a match-winning performance. Sometimes sports is not just a game; the New Orleans Saints’ road to Super Bowl XLIV was a daily beacon of hope and inspiration for the people of New Orleans, the State of Louisiana and the “Who Dat Nation.”
The Saints found extra motivation to layer on their professionalism to win Super Bowl XLIV. Put in a “must-win” situation to continue to stand a chance to qualify for the T20 World Cup, the USA Team was also gifted with the additional motivation of playing the Afghans, but fell short.
Afghanistan won the toss and decided to bat. Opening with spin, the USA’s Lennox Cush took the early wicket of Mohammed Shahzad but thereafter the Afghan batsmen all contributed, helped by dropped catches, misfielding and missed run out chances.
Fielding takes on added importance in T20 cricket and can actually cost a team the match. Afghan opener Noor Ali scored 26 off 27 balls with 3 fours, Nowroz Mangal 30 in 27 balls with 3 fours, whilst the two not out batsmen were Mohammad Nabi 25* in 18 balls with 2 fours and 1 six, and Raees Ahmadzai, 26 in 17 balls with 2 fours, along with Karim Sadiq, 25, helped Afghanistan reach 135 for 4 in 20 overs.
A large media contingent was on hand to cover the game as interest in the match had been building for sometime in addition, some 1,000 Afghan supporters were in attendance to cheer the Cinderella team on.
USA’s Carl Wright played a couple of good shots including a square drive for four and USA got to 28 after 7 overs before losing their first wicket, that of Sushil Nadkarni to pacer Ashraf for 12. Wright’s 28 (2x4s) took 38 balls as the rest of the batsmen felt the pressure of the low scoring rate, with only Rashard Marshall 19 (2x4s) and Aditya Thyagarajan, 14, reached double figures. USA made 106 for 7 wickets in their 20 overs and never seriously challenged the 135 made by Afghanistan.
Bowling for Afghanistan Hameed Hassan had his best T20 bowling figures of 4 overs,14 runs with 3 wickets.
The 29-run defeat of the USA ensured Afghanistan a place in the Super Four Stage of the tournament.