By Peter Della Penna
A poor fielding effort by USA cost them in the end as they lost by 29 runs to Afghanistan on Thursday at the Dubai International Sports Stadium in their final Group A match at the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in Dubai. Afghanistan fast bowler Hamid Hassan was named Man of the Match as he cemented the win for his team with 3 for 14 in four overs.
“I didn’t think it’s the lack of preparation,” said Steve Massiah, USA captain, about the team’s fielding. “I thought we’ve done enough fielding drills and stuff but it’s cricket and I guess none of the guys wanted to drop the catches but it happens and it will continue to happen in the sport. We tried to perfect it but just it didn’t go our way today."
Photo on the right (Courtesy Daniela Zaharia): Afghanistan fast bowler Hamid Hassan receives the Man of the Match award after taking three USA wickets to help send his team on to the Super Fours.
"But it doesn’t have anything to do with preparation. Before we were feeling quite well, but a lot of the guys are coming out of the winter months. We haven’t played enough cricket coming into a tournament like this whereas these guys have been playing for the last month or so. So it just goes to show we just need some more preparation and time to be quite honest.”
Afghanistan won the toss and elected to bat first on a decent batting track. USA’s bowlers did a good job and bowled well after a subpar performance against Ireland on Wednesday, but several dropped chances and numerous misfields came back to haunt USA by the end of the match.
Off-spinner Lennox Cush opened the bowling for USA and struck in the third over of the game, getting Mohammad Shahzad for a duck caught behind by Carl Wright. Noor Ali then combined with Nawroz Mangal to put on 33 runs for the second wicket before Ali was run out for 26 to make it 38 for 2 in the 8th over.
Karim Khan Sadiq then came to the wicket and should have been run out for 2 in the next over, but a mixup between Massiah and Sudesh Dhaniram allowed Sadiq to get back in his crease. He went on to score 25, and was dropped twice along the way, before being stumped by Wright off the off-spin of Timroy Allen. Mangal was run out not long after for 30 to make it 89 for 4. But Mohammad Nabi and Raees Ahmadzai came in and scored 25 and 26 respectively, pushing Afghanistan to 135 for 6 in 20 overs.
USA’s chase got off to a very slow start and as a result, they never got any momentum going to come anywhere close to the target. Poor communication between the wickets also did not help as Sushil Nadkarni and Wright were unsure about when and when not to take singles. Nadkarni eventually fell to the pace bowling of Mirwais Ashraf for 12 and halfway through the second innings, USA was 39 for 1.
Lennox Cush was the next to go for 7, slogging the spin of Nabi to long on in the 12th over, but USA was still in with a chance until Hamid Hassan came on in the 13th over. Captain Mangal saved his trump card until just the right time and on his very first ball, Hassan got Wright to drive one in the air to Nabi at cover, falling for 28 to make it 54 for 3. Wickets then fell at regular intervals as Afghanistan continued to build pressure.
After Nabi got Dhaniram slogging to square leg to be out for 4, Hassan bowled Allen with a yorker for 9 to make it 69 for 5 in the 15th over and it was only a matter of time before the finishing touches were put on. Aditya Thyagarajan was clean bowled for 14 with another full and straight ball from Hassan. Massiah came in at number eight and scored 5 runs while Rashard Marshall was run out for 19 on the second to last ball of the match before USA finished 106 for 7.
“I promoted some guys who I thought at that time, with 12-15 runs per over could hit the ball over the boundary, which we needed some momentum so to speak and I’m more of a batsman who needs some time to get in,” said Massiah when asked why he moved himself down the order.
USA finishes 1-2 and in third place in Group A after Ireland defeated Scotland in the second match on Thursday in Dubai. Afghanistan tops the table at 3-0 while Ireland finishes 2-1 and advances to the Super Fours with Afghanistan as well as UAE and Netherlands from Group B. Scotland finishes last in Group A at 0-3.