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By David Sentance
Organized deep in the heart of Silicon Valley by Hemant Buch and Raj Padhi of the Bay Area Cricket Alliance, the second annual selection for the US Women’s team in Cupertino went off flawlessly. Five teams participated in the tournament - North East (Connecticut), New York, Atlantic Region (New Jersey), the West Region Firebirds (California and beyond) and the West Region Chargers based in Seattle.
“Every cricket facility in Cupertino is within a mile,” said Hemant. This fact made for a compact, easily accessible tournament for both cricketers and spectators. Trees around the ground provided excellent shade. The facilities provided by the adjoining library were first rate.
The first game between the North East coached by Linden Fraser and the Seattle Chargers was a one-sided affair. The North East knocked up 328 runs in their forty overs with 117 extras giving them considerable headway. Former South African Under-17 player, Monique Mathee started proceedings with a well-crafted 45 runs.
Player of the match was Indomatie Goordial-John with a brilliantly struck 75 before getting run out in the tail-end of innings trying to retain the strike.
Pic (Right): Player of the match and MVP of the tournament - Indomatie Goordial John [Courtesy: John Aaron]
Candace Aitkins, who was selected along with Sonakshi Sagar of the Firebirds for a Trinidad training camp in the first trials held last year at Fort Lauderdale continued to show star power.
The first match proved useful as it clearly illustrated the levels of cricket skill in action. The North East are as professional as any team within the United States sporting two former West Indian stars and four US original team members. The Seattle Chargers are just starting out having converted to hardball cricket in the last month. Coached ably by their young Australian first grade cricketer for New South Wales they have key elements in place for moving to the next level through increased competition.
The second game between Atlantic Region and the Firebirds was a more balanced affair. The New Jersey led by Ivy Mahabir scored 85 all out in their innings. Bushra Ally Imran who flew in from Milwaukee for the trials bowled intimidating fast off cutters for the Firebirds.
The Firebirds batting was led by former Indian test player Durga Das who opened for the Firebirds with the most elegant batting style of all players in the tournament. A champion golfer and successful business women in the Bay Area, her timing and straight drives were immaculate. Scoring 24, her innings inspired the Firebirds who had other surprises in store.
Erika Rendler, a converted American soft-ball player showed a well coached straight bat for 10 runs while Sandra Ibarra, America’s first Chicano player showed dramatic improvement in her batting owing to the stewardship of batting coach Aamir Mirza who led the Pakistan first-class batting averages in 1992. The Firebirds won the game by 4 wickets.
Apart from the Cupertino Civic Center clay pitch which will convert to turf in time, the second pitch at Dilworth Elementary School had an Astroturf surface. Here a fascinating match played out between the North-East and New York. Both teams had dominant players. Doris Francis, an accurate bowler relied on by the US to qualify for their round against Canada last year, continued to restrict the batters. For the North East right-handed seam bowler Shondell Ward bowled a remarkable 8 overs, 3 maidens for 8 runs, a match winning performance as New York tried in vain to top the 108 score of the North East.
Pic (Above): Victorious North East XI
New York did not go away empty handed on the second day’s play on the Cupertino pitch. A strong bowling side they held the Firebirds to 77 runs getting Durga Das early while Ritu improved her opening performance.
Coming in number 3 Sri Lankan born Mala, by far the physically strongest player in the tournament who benches 180 lb, thumped the ball with more confidence than the day before on a pitch that encouraged low bounce. Erika Rendler held the innings together in the middle with a well hit 10 run top-score. Sandra Ibarra showed off her new straight bat fending off the cream of New York’s bowling resulting in an invaluable series of partnerships which enabled the tail-ends to add thirty runs. Sandra was eventually caught out at mid-wicket for 7 runs.
With just 77 runs on the board, New York looked set for a crushing victory. However, after two quick runs outs the Firebird’s spin-bowlers were able to clamp-down New York’s middle-order batting for just 10 runs in 20 overs. It was a remarkable performance by former India player and Firebird captain Rajashree Mahale and the youngest US women’s team member Sonakshi Sagar.
With both bowlers finishing their allotment Erika Rendler, after taking a blinding catch at square leg, was put on to bowl - having taken two wickets in the previous match against New Jersey. The tension broke with a six off the first ball going for match delivering 10 runs in one over.
All was not lost for the Firebirds though as the tight spell by the spin bowlers gave them an earned run rate ahead of New York’s thus delivering second-place even though New York defeated the Firebirds, head to head by 4 wickets.
Seattle playing on Dilworth ground showed the most improvement of any team scoring 143 all out against New Jersey. Gul won the bowler of the match award for New Jersey with figures of 8 runs off 8 overs. Rohine was the most consistent bowler for Seattle giving the least number of wides on the team.
Sangita Jayaraman, captain of the Seattle Chargers and West Coast Women’s representative for USACA, gave her assessment of the team and the tournament. “In our first game we fielded well especially as we had so few days practice in rainy Seattle. I was proud of the team and how it performed.” Asked about the selection process she said. “lt was a black box. No one came to see me bat when I got 19 on the last day against New Jersey.” Were minds already made up?