USA middle order batsman Rashard Marshall gritted his teeth after receiving a nasty blow to the shoulder from Oman fast bowler Munis Ansari to carry USA to a tense 2-wicket win over Oman at Somerset Cricket Club on Wednesday on the third day of play at 2013 ICC WCL Division Three in Bermuda. Marshall’s 72 not out off 83 balls garnered the Man of the Match award and took USA to 3-0 on the week while Oman falls to 1-2. The win means that another victory in USA’s next match against Uganda on Thursday will clinch a spot for USA at the 2014 ICC World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand.
“Rashard is a trusted lieutenant in this team,” USA vice-captain Sushil Nadkarni said after the win. “He’s one of the senior batsmen in this team and this is not the first time we’ve seen him do this. He’s done this a few times before for USA but all credit to Rashard today. He really carried the team. He took on the pressure and just like a senior man, when he got in he saw us through and brought the game home. I think it’s nothing short of a great innings.”
USA won the toss and elected to field first with an unchanged eleven as overcast conditions swarmed the island. Both Italy and Nepal made the same choice after winning the toss in their games against Uganda and Bermuda respectively.
Omani openers Ajay Lalcheta and Ghazanfar Iqbal looked uncomfortable against the opening pace of Timroy Allen and Elmore Hutchinson but it took the intervention of Japen Patel’s fielding to make the first breakthrough for USA. Lalcheta tried to push Allen to Patel at mid off for a run that was never there and Patel charged in to field and strike a direct hit from point blank range, sending Lalcheta off for 5 in the third over. Iqbal lasted until the seventh when he was bowled by a full delivery from Allen for 7 to make it 25 for 2. Hutchinson continued his impressive tournament by removing Zeeshan Siddiqui for 8, caught at first slip by Nadkarni to make it 34 for 3 at the start of the eighth over.
In a sign of things to come later in the Oman innings, captain Vaibhav Wategaonkar and Jatinder Singh dug in for an attritional stand of 40 runs for the fourth wicket. Wategaonkar was dropped twice, on 11 by Steven Taylor off Orlando Baker and then again on 23 with a sharp return chance to Patel.
Image (right) - Japen Patel sprints away in celebration with Timroy Allen (left) after taking two wickets in three balls. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com]
The stand finally ended when Baker removed Singh for 13 with a short ball edged behind to Taylor. It sparked a mini-collapse as Oman lost two more wickets for no runs to slide to 74 for 6. Patel took two in three balls when he had Wategaonkar caught behind by Taylor for 25 before trapping Sultan Ahmed in front for a second-ball duck in the 22nd.
Oman lost two in a clump a few overs later when Aamir Kaleem tried slogging Neil McGarrell and produced a top edge taken by Nadkarni at slip for 12. Amir Ali then fell to McGarrell two overs later when he sent a leading edge back to the left-arm spinner for 8 to make it 95 for 8 one ball into the 28th.
“It was overcast and it was drizzling slightly through the first 20-25 overs for Oman so the wicket was kind of moist and it had some uneven bounce so I would say they had the worst of the conditions while batting,” Nadkarni said. “I think we had them on the mat at 98 for 8 [sic] and then they actually clawed their way back into the game because their last two wickets put on about 70-80 runs which set up a great match today.”
Oman refused to lie down though as number nine Hemal Mehta and number 10 batsman Sufyan Mahmood dug in and frustrated USA’s bowling attack with resolute defense. Their partnership of 41 runs spanned 14 overs before Mehta finally lost his cool and tried to slog McGarrell over long on but Patel took a straightforward catch on the rope to dismiss the batsman for 20, making it 136 for 9.
Mahmood continued to anchor one end while Ansari arrived and delivered some late blows, eventually finishing 26 not out off 22 balls with four boundaries and a six. Oman’s bench cheered vociferously with every run scored in the hopes of getting to a defendable total. The pair took Oman into the final over before Hutchinson finished off the innings by getting Mahmood caught by Steve Massiah at cover for a joint top score of 26 as USA bowled out Oman for 175 in 49.4 overs. McGarrell finished with 3 for 30 to continue his reign as the tournament’s leading wicket taker with 10 in three games.
Ansari’s opening pace blitz rocked USA at the start of their chase and erased any notions that USA could simply chalk up a simple victory on the same ground they posted 366 on Sunday against Nepal. Taylor was bowled on the second ball of the chase for a duck by a searing yorker from Ansari. Nadkarni entered above Massiah at three but only lasted until the end of the fifth over before he too was bowled by a full delivery from Ansari for 7 to make it 17 for 2.
Baker was joined by Massiah and in a crucial sequence in the match, Massiah had yet to score when he was dropped off Ansari in the 7th. On the fifth ball of the over, Massiah drove the fast man straight to Lalcheta at mid off and a straightforward chance was put down. On the very next ball, Massiah inside edged a ball off his pads and the ball rolled backwards into the stumps but the bails failed to dislodge. Lalcheta kept the pressure just as tight at the opposite end, dismissing Baker for 20 with an edge behind to the keeper Ahmed to make it 37 for 3 in the 10th.
It was at this stage that Marshall arrived and like Massiah survived an early chance when a runout opportunity was blown with the batsman on 12. Massiah fended a delivery from the left-arm spin of Kaleem into midwicket and Marshall set off for a run that wasn’t there. Mahmood fielded and threw to Kaleem over the non-striker’s stumps with Marshall still several yards short of making his ground. The bowler caught the ball adjacent to the stumps one-handed with his left hand, but broke the stumps with his right hand and belted out an appeal. Umpire Roger Dill correctly gave Marshall not out after the bowler failed to break the stumps with the hand containing the ball and subsequently failed to pull out a stump with the ball pressed against it before Marshall made his ground. It turned out to be a very costly mental error by Kaleem and Marshall made the most of his second chance.
After a brief rest, Ansari returned for a second spell. Massiah, who had earlier struck Ansari for three fours in an over, carried on in vintage fashion with a glorious back foot drive through the covers to chase Ansari out of the attack once more. A short time later, Massiah brought up the 100 for USA with a single off Kaleem in the 23rd.
Ansari’s third spell had venom similar to his first and with his third ball struck Marshall in the right shoulder with a delivery that took extra bounce off the pitch. After getting some treatment, Marshall continued but two balls later the 90-run stand finally ended when a good length delivery clipped the shoulder of Massiah’s forward defense and lobbed to Kaleem at backward point to make it 127 for 4 in the 27th. USA’s captain provided 39 valuable runs but more importantly stayed at the crease to shield the rest of USA’s order from the majority of Ansari’s spell hostile pace.
Image (left) - Rashard Marshall is in agony after being struck on the shoulder by a sharp rising delivery from Oman fast bowler Munis Ansari. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com]
McGarrell joined Marshall and the set batsman brought up his half-century in 48 balls with a top edged hook off Ansari over the keeper to end the 27th. The pair safely negotiated Ansari’s final over to take USA to 138 for 4 after 29 as Ansari finished with 3 for 62 in 10 but just when it appeared USA could breathe easier, McGarrell edged Kaleem to Mehta at slip for 4 to spark a middle order collapse. Allen failed with the bat for the first time in the tournament, trapped LBW by Kaleem without scoring to make it 141 for 6. Eight balls later, Mehta had Patel stumped for a duck to make it 142 for 7 and all of a sudden the last 34 runs needed for a USA win seemed very far away.
Marshall kept his composure though and along with Barrington Bartley took advantage of some loose bowling down the stretch. Bartley clubbed a pair of short balls for four and six from Kaleem in the 38th to get USA within seven runs of victory but on the very next ball he was given LBW for 16 despite a possible inside edge to make it 169 for 8.
Hutchinson arrived and with a calm temperament saw off the final two balls of Kaleem’s 10th over. Marshall started the 39th on strike to Mehta and swept back-to-back balls for two before a pair of singles leveled the scores. With Hutchinson on strike to start the 40th, Oman brought on Siddiqui to bowl for the first time in the match and a half-tracker was swatted to mid off for the winning run. USA’s bench sprinted onto the field to hug both batsmen after achieving a thrilling victory. USA also defeated Oman by two wickets at Division Three in Hong Kong two years ago when Usman Shuja and Asif Khan added an unbeaten 72-run stand for the ninth wicket to take USA to an improbable win.
In Wednesday’s other games, Nepal kept their promotion hopes dangling by a thread with an 8-wicket romp over Bermuda at St. David’s CC. Bermuda made 106 after being sent in to bat before Nepal chased the runs in 11.2 overs to not only register their first win but drastically improve their net run rate after the beating it took over the first two days of the tournament. At the National Stadium, Uganda managed to defend 114 for 9 against Italy to win by 23 runs. Italy was 52 for 2 chasing a small target but lost their last 8 wickets for 39 runs. Opener Andy Northcote top scored with 28 but his runout left Italy at 72 for 6 and hastened their collapse. Uganda captain Davis Arinaitwe took 4 for 20 to lead his side to a narrow win.
After the first three days of the tournament, USA and Uganda are both 3-0 while Oman, Nepal and Bermuda’s promotion hopes remain alive at 1-2. Italy is the only team no longer with a chance at promotion with an 0-3 record and will have to work hard to avoid relegation to Division Four with their final two matches coming against Bermuda and Nepal. In order for one of Oman, Bermuda or Nepal to gain promotion, each of the three sides needs a win today and Saturday combined with another loss on Saturday for the loser of Thursday’s USA vs. Uganda match. Nepal plays Oman Thursday in a virtual knockout match with the winning team keeping their promotion hopes alive at 2-2 while the loser will be at 1-3 and in danger of relegation heading into the last day of round-robin play.
DreamCricket.com’s tournament coverage continues on Thursday with a battle of the only two undefeated sides left in the tournament at St. David’s on the east side of the island. Live updates sponsored by New Inning Foundation begin at 10 a.m. local time, 9 a.m. on the east coast in the USA.