Noshtush Kenjige took 5 for 20, including the wickets of three players from USA's title-winning squad at WCL Division Four, on day one of the USA squad trials in Houston.
By Peter Della Penna in Houston
Left-arm spinner Noshtush Kenjige produced a brilliant effort with the ball, taking 5 for 20 in eight overs in the first of two trial matches conducted on Friday at Smart Choice Moosa Stadium in Pearland, Texas.
Kenjige significantly helped his chances of making the final 14-man squad for ICC WCL Division Three in Uganda this May with his performance. Among his wickets were three members of USA’s title-winning squad at Division Four last year – captain Steven Taylor, Nicholas Standford and Akeem Dodson – as well as former Hyderabad wicketkeeper Ibrahim Khaleel.
In Kenjige’s third over, the string of dot balls he had been building resulted in another wicket as Ravi Timbawala was runout for 1 from square leg by Usman Rafiq, whose relay to Kenjige over the stumps came in plenty of time. Kenjige then removed Khaleel for 11 in his fifth over. The spinner repeatedly teased batsmen to drive with his flight and finally succeeded in getting Khaleel to push back a simple return catch at waist height.
A double-blow was struck in his sixth over as Kenjige had opener Randall Wilson playing against the turn to lob a leading edge back to the bowler for 26. Two balls later, Standford reached out to a full delivery to slam a drive back down the pitch only for Kenjige to intercept it diving low to his right for a stunning catch, his third caught and bowled of the innings. He completed his five-for in his seventh over as Dodson edged behind attempting to cut.
At the time, Team Taylor was 103 for 6 with Kenjige having played a hand in all six dismissals but former Windward Islands legspinning allrounder Camilus Alexander and Prashanth Nair eventually teamed up for a remarkable 59-run ninth-wicket stand to see Team Taylor home. Alexander finished 28 not out off 48 balls and Nair 32 not out off 29 balls. A key sequence occurred in the 29th over, when Nair slogged offspinner Usman Rafiq over the leg side for two sixes and a four and the pair was rarely troubled thereafter.
Team Jasdeep, captained by Jessy Singh, had posted a total of 182 for 4 in their 40 overs. Fahad Babar retired out after scoring 50 off 73 balls, having put on 103 for the first wicket with Arjun Thyagarajan in 22.1 overs. The pair grinded their way through the Powerplay – just one boundary was scored and 36 dots to reach 23 for 0 in eight overs – before accelerating when spin was introduced in the 13th over.
Thyagarajan also reached a half-century, eventually falling for 55 off 82 balls when he lofted Alexander’s legspin to Elmore Hutchinson at long off in the 31st over. Taylor, who was the most impressive bowler for his side, then struck twice in the 34th to claim Roy Silva leg before on a quicker ball for 1 before Davion Davidson fell first ball after failing to clear short fine leg with an attempted paddle sweep to make it 150 for 3.
Nisarg Patel finished with Team Jasdeep’s third half-century of the innings, and by far the most fluent of the trio, striking six boundaries before he brought up his 50 in 63 balls with a six in the 39th over off Nair. Taylor finished with 2 for 22 in eight overs with the ball while Alexander was far more impressive than his final figures of 1 for 27 in six. Hutchinson and Naseer Jamali bowled tight opening spells and ended with figures of 0 for 22 and 0 for 30 in eight overs respectively.
In the second trial match of the day, which had been scheduled as a 30-over match but became a 34-over a side game due to the early finish of the first match, Team Japen comfortably beat Team Bhatti by seven wickets. Team Bhatti batted first and were bowled out for 85 in just 25 overs. Team Japen achieved the target in 21 overs but were instructed to bat on in order for selectors to be able to evaluate more players. They eventually finished their 34 overs on 180 for 6.
Team Japen’s solid performance with the ball was set up by a terrific opening spell from Ali Khan, who took 2 for 14 in five overs. Khan beat Abdullah Syed for pace to bowl the hard-hitting opener for 8 before Omari Williams was late on a full ball to be pinned lbw without scoring as part of a double-wicket over in the fifth.
Spinners wiped out the rest of Team Bhatti with Ali Samad taking 3 for 11 in four overs of offspin to clean up the tail. Shiva Vashishat, who entered at No. 4, top scored with 34 and was one of only two batsmen to cross double figures in the innings. Vashishat was last man out, driving Abhimanyu Rajp into the wind to be caught at long-on.
In reply, Sagar Patel scored an assured 44 off 62 balls opening the batting for Team Japen before he was caught at long-on just 10 short of the winning target trying to hit legspinner Timil Patel through the wind. Mrunal Patel fell to Timil for 21 off 24 balls in the same over on a questionable lbw decision to a ball that appeared heading down leg stump.
Javein Thomas, who was dropped by Bhatti on a straightforward chance at midwicket on 3 a short time later off Williams, eventually finished unbeaten on 50 off 38 balls, slugging four big sixes over the leg side, including two off former USA captain Muhammad Ghous who ended with figures of 0 for 36 in seven overs.