By John L. Aaron
After a heart-breaking collapse against host nation Italy yesterday, Team USA today played the match of their lives to defeat Nepal, and all but assured themselves a ticket to the Division 3 Tournament this coming winter in Honk Kong.

Sushil Nadkarni collects his third MVP award of the tournament. Photo courtesy of ICC.

Having lost to Italy in what many considered an upset, the USA regained its balance coming up against nemesis Nepal at the Ovale di Rastignano ground in Pianoro, Italy, winning by 55 runs. Team USA won the toss and elected to take first strike on a clear and sunny day under a cloudless Italian sky.

It was a battle of the middle-orders for both teams, with USA’s Sushil Nadkarni copping his third Man-of-the-Match award in four matches; this time batting at the middle of the USA’s inning and scoring an invaluable 64 not out as the USA’s top order failed to ignite properly. Nepal had a similar situation develop in their inning, with middle-order batsmen Paras Khakda and Gyanendra Malla making a gallant effort to reestablish the Nepalese inning. In the end, Nepal could only reach 148 all out in 49.3 overs in reply to the USA’s 203 for 8 in 50 overs.

The USA’s posting of 203 runs at an asking rate of just over 4 runs per over, was hardly considered insurmountable by the Nepalese squad who had defeated the USA in the final of the Division 5 tournament in Nepal earlier this year. But the bowling of 20 year old Muhammad Ghous (10-0-31-3), Orlando Baker (10-0-32-2) and Usman Shuja (8-0-17-3) catapulted the USA over the destination Hong Kong barrier.

Although the USA had somewhat of a better start than Nepal, it still was not what has been the expected norm for Team USA thus far in this tournament. Orlando baker was asked to dance with Carl Wright in the opening sequence of the USA inning, but he was soon off the floor with a second ball duck. Wright then waltzed with skipper Steve Massiah for a 30-run step, before he exited for 16. The tall all-rounder Lennox Cush soon joined his skipper and immediately established his presence on the dance floor, clocking (6x4s, 1×6) in a 37-ball 32 run appearance, before exiting the hall.

Enter 34-year old Sushil Nadkarni, two-time Man-of-the-Match awardee who played a superb inning with the necessary restraint of scoring 30 without a boundary, before going on to record 64 not out (3x4s, 2x6s) establishing the USA’s inning, while seeking dance partners, before the music of 50 overs ended. Team USA was probably hoping for a total somewhere into the 250-275 stratosphere. Nadkarni danced with skipper Steve Massiah for a while before the latter took his exit after bee-bopping for a much-needed 29 (5x4s) off 53 deliveries.

Muhammad Ghous has figures of 3 for 31. Photo by Shiek Mohamed.

Youngster Ghous made a valuable contribution of 15 off 43 balls in the 10 slot, while pacer Shuja contributed 11 off 27 deliveries, as the USA ran out of overs and music at the 203 run mark.

It was now up to the USA bowlers to defend that which in-form Nadkarni and others had established as the go-get-it goal, and defend it they most certainly did, capturing the first four Nepalese wickets for 31 runs, before Nepal’s middle order copied some of the dance moves of the USA’s middle-order, by racking up a 69-run fifth wicket partnership between skipper Paras Khadka, 44 (5x4s and Gyanendra Malla, 34 (2x4s). The young USA spinner Ghous soon brought that to an end, by dismissing the Nepal skipper, while Orlando Baker making amends with the ball took care of Malla, but not before Ghous had captured his second wicket, that of Pradeep Airee c. Massiah for 2. Darlington, Ghous and Cush would wrap up the tail-end and see Nepal off the dance floor for 148 in the bottom half of the fiftieth over.

Team USA with its only loss to hosts Italy needs to end up in the top two final slots to consider a trip to Hong Kong early next year, and from all appearances it’s a done deal. The question on the minds of most people is whether Nepal will defeat a defiant Tanzania tomorrow. The USA plays Argentina in its final match tomorrow, and may very well see themselves in a Division final against Italy. What a rematch that would be.


Congrats! Go Team USA.

SCORECARD

United States of America innings Runs B 4′s 6′s S/R
Baker c †Chhetri b Bhattarai 0 2 0 0 0
Wright+ lbw Das 16 20 2 1 80
Massiah* c Khadka b Regmi 29 53 5 0 54.72
Cush c & b Regmi 32 37 6 1 86.49
Nadkarni not out 64 85 3 2 75.29
Thyagarajan c Vesawkar b Vishvakarma 4 19 0 0 21.05
Marshall lbw Vesawkar 9 7 2 0 128.57
Usman Shuja c Regmi b Vesawkar 11 27 0 1 40.74
Muhammad Ghous c Regmi b Bhattarai 15 43 1 0 34.88
Gordon not out 3 8 0 0 37.5
Darlington 0 0 0 0 0
Extras (b 0, lb 6, w 13, nb 1, pen ) 20
Total (50.0 overs , 8 wickets ) 203 ( 4.06 runs per over)

Fall of wickets: 1 – 0 (Baker, 0.2), 2 – 31 (Wright, 7.3), 3 – 82 (Cush, 17.5), 4 – 86 (Massiah, 19.5), 5 – 98 (Thyagarajan, 24.3), 6 – 111 (Marshall, 27.4), 7 – 139 (Usman Shuja, 35.6), 8 – 182 (Muhammad Ghous, 46.6)

Bowling O M R W NB WD E/R
Bhattarai 10.0 0 37 2 0 6 3.7
Khadka 5.0 1 28 0 0 0 5.6
Das 8.0 2 40 1 0 2 5
Regmi 9.0 2 26 2 0 2 2.89
Gauchan 4.0 1 16 0 0 0 4
Vesawkar 9.0 1 25 2 0 0 2.78
Vishvakarma 5.0 0 25 1 1 1 5
Nepal innings Runs B 4′s 6′s S/R
Chhetri+ c †Wright b Usman Shuja 15 26 2 0 57.69
Mandal c TP Allen b Usman Shuja 0 4 0 0 0
Gauchan c †Wright b Baker 1 36 0 0 2.78
Khadka* st Wright b Muhammad Ghous 44 73 5 0 60.27
Vesawkar c TP Allen b Usman Shuja 1 10 0 0 10
Malla c †Wright b Baker 34 72 2 0 47.22
Airee c Massiah b Muhammad Ghous 2 9 0 0 22.22
Regmi c Massiah b Darlington 11 18 1 0 61.11
Das c Usman Shuja b Muhammad Ghous 6 13 0 0 46.15
Vishvakarma not out 11 30 0 0 36.67
Bhattarai c Massiah b Cush 6 7 0 1 85.71
Extras (b 5, lb 0, w 11, nb 1, pen ) 17
Total (49.3 overs , 10 wickets ) 148 ( 3 runs per over)

Fall of wickets: 1 – 11 (Mandal, 1.4), 2 – 26 (Gauchan, 10.5), 3 – 26 (Chhetri, 11.1), 4 – 31 (Vesawkar, 13.5), 5 – 100 (Khadka, 33.3), 6 – 104 (Airee, 35.6), 7 – 114 (Malla, 38.5), 8 – 123 (Das, 41.5), 9 – 134 (Regmi, 44.3), 10 – 148 (Bhattarai, 49.3)

Bowling O M R W NB WD E/R
Darlington 9.0 2 17 1 0 4 1.89
Usman Shuja 8.0 0 17 3 0 2 2.13
Baker 10.0 0 32 2 0 3 3.2
Gordon 10.0 0 37 0 1 2 3.7
Muhammad Ghous 10.0 0 31 3 0 0 3.1
Cush 2.3 0 9 1 0 0 3.91