Photo credit: Peter Della Penna
Aaron Jones scored an ODI career-best 95 to pip captain Saurabh Netravalkar's maiden five-wicket haul for Man of the Match honors in USA's three-wicket win over UAE.
By Peter Della Penna in Sharjah (Twitter @PeterDellaPenna)
Aaron Jones’ ODI career-best 95 off 114 balls helped settle USA’s nerves after being 4 for 2 in the third over to steer USA on the way to chase a 47-over target of 203 in a three-wicket win over UAE in the opening match of the Cricket World Cup League Two tri-series at Sharjah Cricket Stadium. The final margin of victory made the result appear closer than it was in reality as Jones' innings put USA in control for the majority of the chase before a flurry of wickets fell with USA in sight of victory.
Jones entered facing a hat-trick ball after Monank Patel and Steven Taylor fell on back-to-back balls from Junaid Siddique to start the third over but Jones rebuilt the innings alongside Xavier Marshall in a 78-run partnership for the third wicket. USA clinched the chase with 10 balls to spare after a below-par target was set up by Saurabh Netravalkar’s maiden five-wicket haul for USA, the first five-for in USA’s ODI history, as he took four wickets in the space of seven balls at the death to bowl out UAE for 202 with 10 balls left unused and Muhammad Usman left stranded on 59.
UAE opted to bat first at the toss after the match was delayed 75 minutes with three overs shaved off due to a wet outfield. But the hosts were tied down early in Netravalkar’s new-ball spell. ODI debutant Vriitya Aravind had seized on Rusty Theron at the opposite end for a pair of boundaries in the fifth, including a gorgeous square drive through cover point, and had reached 16 before Netravalkar’s nagging fourth stump line got him to play away from his body for an edge behind to Akshay Homraj. The pressure being build by Netravalkar’s dot balls led to a second wicket in the 10th when Chirag Suri and Darius D’Silva got into a mixup on a ball pushed by D’Silva into the covers. Nosthush Kenjige fielded and relayed calmly to Monank Patel over the non-striker’s stumps with both batsmen at the striker’s end, though D’Silva briefly left his crease to allow Suri to be the not out batsman.
Suri went on to construct a 53-run stand with Basil Hameed as the 24-year-old former Gujarat Lions squad member Suri seized on a short-pitched plan to pull a series of boundaries off USA’s medium pacers. The stand came to an end when Hameed was harshly given lbw for 25 on a ball that video replays indicated struck him outside the line of off stump against Theron. Suri fell nine overs later in the 30th for 46 to a brilliant catch on the deep midwicket boundary by Theron, who sprinted 25 yards to his left before intercepting a flick off Steven Taylor that appeared destined for six. Taylor struck two overs later for his second wicket, getting Rohan Mustafa lbw missing a reverse sweep for 9 to make it 131 for 5 in 32 overs. Waheed Ahmed fell prodding away from his body to edge behind for Kenjige’s first wicket to make it 144 for 6.
But Muhammad Usman kept the USA bowling attack at bay for the next six overs, constructing a sharp 46-run stand with captain Ahmed Raza. Usman struck Netravalkar for six in the 40th before Raza attacked Kenjige in the 41st, flicking him over long-on for six before a reverse sweep for four over point as part of a 13-run over and after 43 overs, UAE were 190 for 6.
However, the hosts were only able to add 12 runs the rest of the way as Netravalkar stunned UAE’s lower-order with a magnificent death spell. Raza lost his wicket backing away to try to drive Netravalkar through the off side only to be yorker for 19. Debutant Karthik Meiyappan then fended his first ball behind to Homraj to put Netravalkar on a hat-trick at 190 for 8 in the 44th but Junaid Siddique was able to see it off pushing a single. Usman then brought up his half-century one ball later with a single, though his nonchalant thumbs up showed his concern at the dwindling number of partners at the opposite end.
In a key sequence in the 45th over, Siddique flicked to short fine leg where Marshall came in to field, but an opportunity was there for a single that Usman hesitated on before turning down. Siddique then decided to take a single off the final ball to keep strike for the 46th, a costly decision in the end as Netravalkar dislodged him with a slower bouncer before Zahoor Khan edged behind a length ball to complete Netravalkar and USA’s first-ever ODI five-wicket haul. Usman meanwhile was at the non-striker’s end on 59 off 71 balls as UAE ended their innings with 10 balls left unused.
Aside from Netravalkar’s 5 for 32, Taylor supported him well with figures of 2 for 33 in eight overs. Kenjige and Theron were the only other wicket-takers for USA, claiming 1 for 40 and 1 for 46 respectively in nine overs each.
USA headed into the chase as favorites but got off to a calamitous start. They did not score a run off the bat through the first three overs, the only runs coming from four byes with Monank Patel on strike in the first. Monank chased away from his body to edge Siddique through low to Raza at first slip off the first ball of the third before Taylor offered no shot to an inswinger to be given lbw for a golden duck.
Jones arrived and nervily saw off his first four deliveries to end the third over and crawled his way initially to 5 off 27 balls. But he became unstuck in the 11th over getting a series of boundaries off Waheed Ahmed and went on to score 90 off his final 87 deliveries in a beautifully paced innings as he built momentum with Marshall. The pair ran aggressively between the wickets in stark contrast to many of USA’s stands during the Super50 tour of Trinidad and it was that eagerness that eventually cost Marshall in the end. Trying to set off for a tight single to square leg, Jones sent Marshall back and a relay from Meiyappan towards the non-striker’s stumps hit Marshall in the side. UAE’s fielders appealed for obstructing the field and after two minutes, the appeal was upheld to end Marshall’s stay for 34.
Ian Holland arrived and added 47 in partnership with Jones, who brought up his half-century off 78 balls by driving Zahoor over mid-off for a boundary. A pull in the 29th off Meiyappan behind square added another before he hooked Zahoor for six in the 30th to accelerate further. Holland fell on a spectacular low return catch by Raza for 19 in the 32nd and Homraj fell for 13 in the 37th, beaten driving against Siddique for the medium pacer’s third wicket.
Jones appeared destined for three figures but survived his first close shave on 85 when he pulled Siddique to Suri at deep square leg but Suri misjudged the chance badly running in initially before leaping up late as it went through his hands for six to take Jones into the 90s. He took singles to get to 95 before flicking Zahoor toward Waheed at deep square leg. Waheed looked like he may make the same error as Suri had a few overs earlier, running in on a misjudged effort but recovered to make an incredible one-handed leaping catch just inside the rope to leave Jones crestfallen five short of a would-be first ODI century in USA’s history.
Stevenson fell one over later trying to end the match with one swing off Waheed and instead skied a catch to Raza at extra cover in the ring. But Karima Gore coolly took USA across the line, driving a straight four off Mustafa two balls into the 46th over to end 26 not out. Siddique ended with UAE’s best figures, claiming 3 for 37 in his nine overs.
USA comes straight back on Monday to play the second ODI of the tri-series against Scotland at Sharjah. The match is scheduled for a 10 a.m. start.