Part of the lack of overall success from the middle order can be attributed to batsmen constantly being shuffled around without having a clearly defined role.
By Peter Della Penna (on Twitter)
Batting – B: USA had the tournament’s two highest run getters in Sushil Nadkarni and Steven Taylor. The team had five half-centuries against four ducks, two of which came in the final against Nepal where promotion and relegation wasn’t at stake. None of the four centuries scored in the tournament were made by a USA batsman. USA had 14 individual scores between 20 and 49, showing that lots of people were getting starts but then failed to convert them into more substantial scores.
The team had one century stand, the very first partnership of the tournament between Nadkarni and Taylor against Malaysia, and seven half-century partnerships. USA’s first wicket partnerships in Hong Kong at Division Three last year produced an average stand of 11.33 runs. At Division Four in Malaysia, it was 53.67. In theory, having starts like that should take pressure off the rest of the batting unit.
Image (right) - Steven Taylor completes a cut shot against Denmark at the Selangor Turf Club. Taylor made a huge difference to the top of the order for USA compared to the team's opening partnership struggles at Division Three in Hong Kong last year. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com]
However, USA’s middle order, in its many jumbled configurations during the tournament, largely disappointed. Nadkarni made one of his two half-centuries at number four against Nepal and the other 50 that didn’t come at the top was Timroy Allen’s assault on Malaysia at number four when he was sent up the order with less than 15 overs to go to boost USA’s total. Otherwise, the middle order didn’t have anything significant to write home about.
Part of the lack of overall success from the middle order can be attributed to batsmen constantly being shuffled around without having a clearly defined role. There were also some strange decisions made, like having Allen come in to bat at number three in the fifth over of the group match vs. Nepal and Abhimanyu Rajp entering at number three in the fifth over against Nepal in the final.
Several other batsmen could have been utilized to knock the ball around for ones and twos in the early to middle overs to make 29 off 39, which is what Allen wound up with in the group game against Nepal. However, no one else on the team is better suited to come in at number seven with 10-15 overs remaining and clear the ropes when the team needs a major acceleration. Some fans may try to assign blame for that loss to some of the batsmen who came in later and couldn’t get USA across the line when the pressure started to rise in the final 11 overs, but it was a tactical blunder to have Allen unavailable to walk in at that stage. Experimenting with Rajp at three was also a mistake, or a two-word British phrase that rhymes with it.
Bowling – C+: There were 11 individual performances where a bowler took four wickets or more at this tournament, but none of them were by a USA player. Collectively the bowling unit was average. Allen tied for fourth overall on the wickets list with 10. USA took 39 out of a possible 60 wickets, the same amount Malaysia took and less than Singapore’s 49 and Nepal’s 59 in six games.
No bowler really stood out, but more importantly no one really threatened to devastate the opposition. On the whole, it never appeared that the better teams felt intimidated by USA’s pace bowling attack, which was supposed to be one of USA’s strengths heading into the tournament.
Image (left) - Timroy Allen took home two Man of the Match awards and was USA's leading bowler at the tournament with 10 wickets bowling a combination of pace and spin. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com]
USA’s lack of incisiveness was on full display over the first two days against Malaysia and Denmark. USA only managed to take eight wickets against Malaysia while allowing them to reach 219 in 50 overs. In their next two games, Malaysia reached 91 for 8 against Singapore and was steamrolled by Nepal for 69. USA won the toss and bowled first against Denmark with overcast conditions at the Selangor Turf Club and a seaming wicket weighing heavily in their favor but they made poor use of the new ball as Denmark rode out the testing conditions to eventually post 244 for 9. The only batting lineup USA managed to bowl out was Tanzania, not exactly a stellar achievement.
Not only were they not able to take wickets easily, but USA’s bowling attack struggled to keep the runs down as well. It was not often that USA’s bowlers were able to string together six dot balls in a row to build pressure individually or as a unit. USA’s attack completed 13 maidens in the tournament compared to 23 bowled against USA. The only team that had fewer maidens bowled than USA was Tanzania with 12, but Tanzania fielded for just 173 overs whereas USA’s bowlers completed 80.1 more overs in the field than Tanzania and had just one more maiden.
USA’s bowlers allowed four half-centuries and one century to be scored against them. The opposition also had six half-century stands and one century stand against USA. Some of those lengthy stands could have been curtailed had the fielders provided better support to back up the bowlers, but the bowlers didn’t make life easy on them either.
Fielding – F: On most days, USA’s fielding would make any fan want to cover their eyes. It reached its nadir against Nepal in USA’s fourth match when they dropped five catches, missed two run outs and never got a hand to perhaps as many as four other balls in the air that could have been chances. USA should consider themselves fortunate that the fielding output that day didn't wind up costing them a spot in Division Three.
By this journalist’s count, USA missed out on 23 clear cut chances during the tournament: six missed run outs, four missed stumpings and 13 missed catches. Not included in that figure are numerous other half-chances that fielders never got a hand to because they were slow to react to the ball coming off the bat. Regardless, 23 misses in the field over six games is a staggering number, especially since USA didn’t field for 50 overs in every game. They fielded for 251.3 overs in the tournament. That means that USA missed out on a clear chance every 11 overs they were in the field. Conversely, USA’s opponents offered them eight chances in 238.1 overs. That’s one chance about every 30 overs.
USA’s missed chances allowed their opponents to score an additional 307 runs. On average, batsmen added 21.93 more runs from the time they were initially given a life until the time they were dismissed, if they were dismissed at all. Four batsmen finished not out after being dropped. Conversely, USA’s batsmen produced 92 more runs off the eight extra chances they were given, adding 13.14 runs after the initial missed chance until they were dismissed.
Nadkarni said at the end of the tournament that one way to fix USA’s fielding woes was to hire specialist fielding coaches to work with the team, which is quite ironic since USA’s head coach in Malaysia, Robin Singh, used to be employed as a specialist fielding coach by the BCCI and was known as a superb fielder during his playing career.
Fitness – D: The team looked very tired batting second after having to field for 50 overs against Denmark and Nepal. The heat In Malaysia was draining on every team, but a team’s strategy can’t be based on winning the toss to avoid having to field first.
USA looked particularly woeful on the second day of back-to-back matches. The team had a 3-0 record playing after an off day and an 0-3 record playing for the second time in two days. The World Cricket League format is not new to USA, so there shouldn’t have been any surprises about what was expected in regards to the fitness requirements to make it through six matches in eight days.
Image (right) - Sushil Nadkarni finishes a cut shot with a flourish against Malaysia at Bayuemas Oval. Nadkarni was the tournament's leading scorer and never appeared to be troubled by the hot and humid conditions in Kuala Lumpur. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com]
Just about the only players who looked like the heat didn’t affect them were Nadkarni and Allen. Otherwise, most players struggled whether it was batting, bowling or fielding. USA’s 23 missed chances in the field can be partly attributed to the poor fitness standards. The playing field was level for all teams with regards to the heat, but it looked like USA felt the effects more than most.
Coming up in Part 2 - Player Grades
[Views expressed in this article are those of the author who was present at all of the team's matches. If you have differing views or opinions, we respect those views and urge you to provide your feedback - both positive and negative - in the comments section.]