Canada secured their fifth straight trip to the ICC U19 World Cup after Arslan Khan held off a furious charge by USA's bowlers with a gutsy half-century in a four-wicket win to secure the 2017 ICC Americas U19 World Cup Qualifier title
By Peter Della Penna in Toronto
Canada U19 batsman Arslan Khan scored his second half-century of the tournament, rescuing his side after both openers were dismissed without scoring in a chase of 132 to help defeat USA U19 by four wickets and clinch the 2017 ICC Americas U19 World Cup Qualifier tournament title. Canada avenged a four-wicket loss to USA earlier in the tournament with both teams ending up equal at 3-1 but Canada secured the region’s berth at next year’s ICC U19 World Cup in New Zealand by virtue of having a better net run rate than USA.
Despite having made what was a well under par total of 132 in 47 overs after being sent in, USA produced a valiant effort in the field spearheaded by opening bowler Keshav Pabisetty. Canada only needed to chase the target in 45.3 overs to pass USA on the net run rate tiebreaker and as a result it meant USA’s only realistic hope of denying Canada was to bowl them out. The Texas seamer nearly made that mission possible when he rocked Canada’s chase in the first over. Pabisetty removed captain Bhavindu Adhihetty with his fourth ball, caught at deep square leg by Karthik Gattepalli, and ended a double-wicket maiden opening frame when he beat Kunwarpal Chana for pace to knock back off stump.
Pabisetty struck a third time in the seventh over, getting Akash Gill to prod a soft drive to Raymond Ramrattan at point to make it 17 for 3. He appeared to have claimed a fourth in the 11th over at 32 for 3 when a yorker struck Kavian Naress on the toe in front of the stumps, but Naress was given not out on 1 by umpire Emmerson Carrington of Bermuda.
Meanwhile, Khan stood firm in the face of the carnage happening at the opposite end. He began to shift momentum back Canada’s way during a 56-run stand with Naress by driving Sahil Patel’s offspin back down the ground for a pair of fours. After seeing off Pabisetty’s threatening opening spell, he milked the rest of USA’s bowling attack for runs as it became clear USA’s best hope for victory depended on removing him before he did any further damage.
USA had a chance in the 23rd over with the score 72 for 4 when Khan attempted a kamikaze single to cover on 45 but the throw to the non-striker’s stumps was wide. Naress fell next ball for 16, chipping a simple return catch back to left-arm spinning allrounder Gattepalli. Khan brought up this 50 in the 25th with a single off Gattepalli but fell in the 27th when he missed an attempted sweep to Gattepalli and was bowled behind his legs for 52 to make it 81 for 5.
Canada still needed 52 to win at that stage with Ashtan Deosammy standing in the way of Canada’s tail but struggling to score having already faced 11 dot balls when Aran Pathmanathan joined him at the crease. However, USA’s fielding, which had been razor sharp all tournament, unraveled at a key moment as a series of misfields and overthrows allowed free runs to take pressure off Canada.
Deosammy survived a close shave on 10 when he edged the first ball of Gaurav Patanker’s second spell but it went just wide of Arjun Patel behind the stumps and continued to the third man rope for four. Pathmanathan finally fell for 13 when he defended down the wrong line to Mohak Buch’s left-arm spin to make it 110 for 6 but Krishen Samuel gave enough support to Deosammy to help Canada over the line. Samuel ended 11 not out while Deosammy was unbeaten on 24, with a two that burst through the hands of a diving effort at mid-off producing the winning runs in 39.2 overs, 6.1 ahead of what was necessary to overtake USA on net run rate.
The low total for Canada’s chase was set up by the 6 for 28 taken by offspinner Rommel Shahzad, It was the first time a Canada U19 bowler took six in a match since medium pacer Manny Aulakh did it in a win over USA at the 2011 U19 World Cup Qualifier in Ireland.
After losing a crucial toss under overcast skies, USA openers Buch and Harish Easwaraiah grinded out a 39-run opening stand that had its share of close shaves. Easwaraiah survived what appeared to be a clear edge through to wicketkeeper Samuel off the bowling of Gill in the 10th over but was given not out by umpire Carrington, a moment that fanned tensions early in the match. Easwaraiah was put down again in the 13th on a simple return chance by Adhihetty while Buch appeared to get a second life in Shahzad’s first over when Samuel fluffed a take behind the stumps.
Buch finally fell for 18 trying to pull Adhihetty off a good length and was bowled. Shahzad then struck for the first time in the 20th, drawing an edge off Easwaraiah to Khan at slip for 18. USA’s batsmen from thereafter struggled to get in as Arjun Patel fell for 3, given out caught behind off Shahzad missing a pull to make it 59 for 3 in 24. Vivek Narayan was then given out lbw for 7 stretching a long way forward attempting to defend left-armer Pathmanathan’s first ball to make it 73 for 4 in 28 overs.
USA progressed to 90 for 4 in 36 overs at the second drinks break with Ramrattan well set on 26 and Patanker relatively fresh at the crease on 6. They signaled their intentions to accelerate in the first over after the break with Ramrattan pulling a short ball from Khan over wide long-on for four while Patanker drove Khan’s legspin to the cover boundary for another in a 10-run over, USA’s best on the day. But Pathmanathan stunted the brief progress in the next over, getting Patanker to slice a catch to point.
Shahzad then returned with four overs left in his quota to start a fresh spell in the 41st and struck almost immediately, Ramrattan’s attempted cut flying to short third man for 34. Sahil Patel lasted until Shahzad’s next over before he was caught by Tiaan Pretorius slogging to deep midwicket for the seventh wicket. Aravind Patnam was Shahzad’s fifth victim when he overstretched on a missed drive in the 45th and was stumped to make it 120 for 8. Pathmanathan claimed Awais Mubarak caught at long-off in the next over for the ninth wicket.
Gattepalli was still in on 14 at the start of the 47th over with Pabbisetty the last man in joining him. Down to his last partner, Gattepalli tried to hit out but was caught for 16 off Shahzad’s last ball by Adhihetty at mid-on to leave 18 deliveries unused for USA.
It’s not often that a bowler takes six wickets in a 50-over match and doesn’t claim the Man of the Match award, but Khan deservedly walked away with the match honors for coming through under immense pressure to dig Canada out of their early hole in the chase. Khan also was named Man of the Tournament after finishing as the leading scorer in the event with 136 runs. He also claimed six wickets with his legspin, tied for second most on the Canada team in the event behind only Shahzad. Canada has now qualified for five straight U19 World Cups, while USA has not been to the event since 2010.