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By Peter Della Penna (on Twitter)
Batting – F: The team had just three half-centuries but managed to rack up 12 ducks, the most for any team in the tournament. If you think you’ve read that before somewhere, it’s because you have: USA’s report card for ICC World Cricket League Division Three in Hong Kong. Nine of the 12 donuts came from recognized batsmen. USA’s highest batting average at the tournament was from a bowler, Asif Khan with 42.00. There were only four half-century partnerships in the tournament, three of which involved Aditya Mishra, two with Orlando Baker, two with Steven Taylor and one with Sushil Nadkarni. When the top order failed, there was next to no support down the order. USA only had four scores of 30+ from number four or lower while their opponents had seven.
With the exception of Steven Taylor, the youth brigade showed they were out of their depth and need to work overtime just to achieve a decent standard. As a consequence of that, the senior players were always under immense pressure to perform and that burden weighed them down.
Image (right) - Aditya Mishra and Steven Taylor run between the wickets during their 78-run opening stand vs. Scotland, USA's highest partnership of the tournament. [Courtesy: ICC/Ian Jacobs]
USA ended the group stage with just three players who had 100 runs or more and finished the tournament with no one crossing 200 on aggregate. Only four other teams failed to have someone score 200+ runs in the tournament: Italy, Oman, Papua New Guinea and Uganda. USA managed to lose to two of those teams.
The running between the wickets was average, mainly due to the lack of familiarity the players had with one another. Like so many other things, if the squad had been established in autumn and given an opportunity to play some games together before going off to the UAE, the chemistry in this regard would have been better. USA’s seven runouts were tied for the third most in the tournament with Kenya and Bermuda, trailing only Nepal with nine and Uganda with 10. None of those teams finished in the top three of their respective groups. Namibia and Scotland had the fewest runouts committed with three and they finished first and third in Group B respectively.
USA's most glaring problems on the batting side came from the number three and seven batting positions. USA's number three position averaged 10.33 during the tournament, the worst out of any position in the top six. That was mainly boosted by Sushil Nadkarni's 48 against Bermuda in the 11th place semifinal. In seven Group B matches, USA's number three produced scores of 7, 1, 0, 6, 8, 3 and 19 for an average of 6.29. Six different players were given opportunities in the position during the tournament, but with the exception of Nadkarni against Bermuda, none of them had success.
Similiarly, the number seven position is crucial in Twenty20 cricket for finishing the innings with a flourish or being a stabilizer when things have gone haywire but neither happened in the UAE. USA's number seven position averaged 8.67 in the tournament with scores of 21, 5, 4, 2, 7*, 4, 9* and 0. It was USA's second worst average at any position in the tournament behind number eight's average contribution of 7.71. Four different players were tried at number seven, but hardly any success was achieved.
Bowling – C+: Of the three disciplines, this is the one USA can usually depend on to keep them in matches and give them the best chance of winning. But collectively on this tour, they turned in an average performance. USA took 34 wickets in seven group games, tied for 11th along with Oman and Papua New Guinea, though they were hurt badly by the fielders behind them. The only bowling attacks that were less incisive during the group stage were Hong Kong, Bermuda and Denmark. Many players were able to get good 30s and 40s against USA, but only four half-centuries were scored against USA.
USA was fairly good at getting early breakthroughs. The opening partnerships for the opposition in each match went for 1, 6, 49, 4, 0, 55, 0, 23 and 10. However, when a partnership got going in the middle overs they found it hard to not only get a wicket but struggled to contain teams. The opposition was able to put together seven half-century partnerships. Five of those came in stands for the third (56 vs. Namibia, 82 vs. Bermuda, 64 vs. Hong Kong) or fourth wicket (86 vs. Ireland, 54 vs. Scotland) during middle over periods. Muhammad Ghous had USA’s best economy rate at 6.00 runs per over, meaning no one on USA could hold the opposition to less than a run a ball.
Fielding – D: As usual, fielding held USA back. USA committed no less than 16 drops and missed two clear runout chances. Each missed chance cost them an average of 18.6 runs. So the opposition wound up gaining an extra 37.2 runs per game off of missed chances by USA. Conversely, USA’s opponents gave them 12 let offs that cost an average of 17.0 runs. So USA was getting an extra 22.6 runs per game off each miss. When you put that against the chances they gave, USA had a net of -14.6 runs per game they conceded to the opposition just based on missed chances. That does not include misfields along the ground by fielders and byes conceded by the wicketkeepers. The wicketkeeping role was a problem all tour after the first choice keeper Nauman Mustafa was yanked following a costly game behind the stumps on the first day against Uganda.
It was that Uganda match in which fielding came back to haunt USA most. Ben Musoke was dropped on 8 with the score at 34 for 3 in 9.1 overs and made 17. Davis Arinaitwe was dropped on 1 with the score at 47 for 4 in 10.5 overs and made 27 not out to become Man of the Match as Uganda reached the target of 124 to win by four wickets with four balls to spare. Arinaitwe only made 37 runs in the group stage and just 67 in the entire tournament, but 26 of them came after he was dropped against the USA.
USA pulled off three runouts in the field in their first two games, but only one in their last seven, a clear indication that they were becoming slower and slower to react off the ball the longer the tournament wore on. Their four runouts in the field tied with Kenya for 13th in the tournament. Oman and Ireland had three, but Ireland’s catching was sharp and their bowlers took the most wickets in group play with 56 so they were always applying a tremendous amount of pressure in the field. Namibia, who finished Group B undefeated, had the most runouts in the field with 12, four more than the next best team, Canada, who also made the knockout stage.
The NFL keeps track of turnover ratio as a good indicator of a team’s success due to not making mistakes on offense versus forcing mistakes on defense. If one were to look at runout ratio in a similar way as a stat in this tournament, USA’s runout ratio of -3 (seven runouts while batting, only four in the field) was tied with Kenya for 14th in the tournament. Only Uganda was worse with -4. Five teams were in positive territory: Namibia (+9), Scotland (+4), PNG (+3), Canada (+2), Netherlands (+1). The only one not to make the knockout stage from that group was PNG, who finished eighth.
Fitness – D: A factor in the team’s poor fielding standards was their fitness. USACA Cricket Committee chairman Ahmed Jeddy said before the tour that, “We are not going to be outrun by every Tom, Dick and Harry.” Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
As noted in the last section, USA had three runouts in the field in the first two games, but pulled off just one in the last seven. Ten of USA’s 18 missed chances in the field happened in their final three matches against Scotland, Bermuda and Hong Kong. They were usually on their heels and slow to react to the ball off the bat. Several catches went down on the boundary because of poor reads, but others were dropped from lethargic efforts in getting to the ball.
USA captain Nadkarni commented after the loss to Hong Kong that his strategy for giving the team a chance to win on that day was to win the toss and bat so that they wouldn’t have to spend 20 overs getting tired in the field before chasing a target. They lost the toss and had to field first, dropping four chances as Hong Kong posted 177 for 4. USA was then smoked by the pace of Aizaz Khan, all out for 100.
It was a long tour for USA, but all teams at the tournament were in the same boat in regards to the number of matches that had to be played. Several traveling party members talked up the team’s youth ahead of the tour and how much energy it would bring. In several places it was spoken or reported that USA’s average age was 27. The fact is that USA’s average age entering the first day of the tournament was 28.52. They were the fourth oldest team in the tournament and it showed.
However, this is somewhat contradicted by the performance of Usman Shuja, who somehow managed to gain steam and bowl better as the tournament wore on. At the age of 33, Shuja was the third oldest player on the team but routinely looked like he had more energy than most of the other younger players out on the field.
Image (left) - Usman Shuja, seen bowling here against Scotland, is consistently one of USA's fittest players on tour. [Courtesy: ICC/Ian Jacobs]
The biggest reality check for where USA needs to be on the fitness side of things comes from watching tournament champion Ireland. For anyone who saw Ireland on the final day, they would know that it is possible to stay full of energy through a grueling tournament. They had been put through more punishment than any other team at the qualifier by playing 11 matches in 12 days, including two on the last day against Namibia and Afghanistan.
However, William Porterfield was constantly flying all over the place and he was well supported by everyone else in the field. Ireland has professionalism on their side though and for USA to achieve the same standards in all aspects of the game they must find a way to do the same or else another 12th place finish is about what USA can expect the next time this qualifier happens.
Coming up in Part II - Individual 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.]