Photo credit: Peter Della Penna
Monank Patel and Aaron Jones produced a 140-run third-wicket partnership, tied for USA's 10th best partnership all-time for any wicket in 50-over cricket, to put USA in position for a thrilling 35-run win over Scotland at Sharjah.
By Peter Della Penna in Sharjah (Twitter @PeterDellaPenna)
A second straight half-century from Aaron Jones as part of a 140-run partnership with Monank Patel set the table for a score of 282 that was brilliantly defended by USA’s death bowlers as a late collapse sparked by Cameron Stevenson saw Scotland lost their last five wickets for nine runs in a 35-run win for USA. Calum MacLeod was in command of the chase for Scotland but was the second wicket to fall in the sequence to Stevenson for 86 and Rusty Theron helped clean up the tail in quick fashion to complete one of USA’s finest victories away from home.
USA captain Saurabh Netravalkar won the toss and chose to bat first on a fresh wicket. The match got off to the worst possible start for USA as Xavier Marshall was bowled first ball not offering a shot to Safyaan Sharif. Steven Taylor fell seven overs later for 17, bowled driving hard at left-arm spinner Mark Watt’s very first delivery to make it 30 for 2.
Jones’ arrival brought stability to the innings as he teamed with Monank to produce the joint 10th highest partnership for any wicket in USA’s 50-over cricket history. The pair were incredibly efficient running between the wickets, milking singles at will on a flat pitch to keep the scoring rate flowing in spite of a lack of boundaries. From the 12th through the 31st, the pair only scored two boundaries, both by Jones in which one came off a misfield at deep backward square by Hamza Tahir. Yet they added 90 runs in that 20-over sequence through intelligent and patient strokeplay.
Monank brought up his half-century first, off 77 balls, with a single in the 28th over. Jones followed by reaching fifty off 81 balls in the 31st. It was then that both started to step on the accelerator as Monank drove over mid-off and then flat-batted Alasdair Evans over long-on for a pair of sixes in the 32nd and 34th. Jones followed by hooking Safyaan Sharif for his first maximum in the 35th. The stand was finally ended when Monank miscued a drive off Richie Berrington trying to clear mid-off in the ring and was caught by Evans for 82. Jones fell in the 40th, feathering a pull down the leg side off Watt for the left-arm spinner’s second wicket to make it 204 for 4.
But Ian Holland started off his excellent all-round match with a sharp burst coming in at No. 5, striking the ball cleanly throughout his brief innings to score 44 off 29 balls before he fell to a stunning one-handed catch from Berrington at extra cover. It was one of two wickets for Watt in his final over of the day in the 46th to complete a haul of 4 for 42 as Akshay Homraj pulled a half-tracker to MacLeod at deep midwicket to fall for 24.
The double-blow sparked a brief wobble in USA’s innings as two more wickets fell in the 47th to Sharif. Cameron Stevenson was done in by a slower ball, top-edging a heave that Sharif claimed jogging back in his follow-through for a first-ball duck. Rusty Theron then played around a full delivery to be given lbw for the third golden duck in USA’s innings.
However, captain Netravalkar intelligently stretched out the innings pushing singles with Karima Gore in the 48th and 49th before going for one final launch in the 50th. Netravalkar seized on a series of attempted slower balls from Evans, hitting two fours before a six over square leg on the final ball of the innings to take USA to 282 for 8.
Sharif ended with 3 for 55 in his spell while Berrington was the only other wicket-taker for Scotland besides Watt, finishing with 1 for 36 in six overs. Evans proved expensive, ending with figures of 0 for 72 on the day.
Netravalkar came out early in the chase and struck the first blow, nabbing Matthew Cross with a back of a length delivery edged to Holland at gully for 8 to make it 14 for 1 in the fourth. Theron followed by exposing Kyle Coetzer’s lack of footwork in the fifth, bowling him with a nipbacker for 5 to make it 16 for 2.
But Michael Jones and Calum MacLeod put Scotland in command of the chase with a 97-run stand for the third wicket. Jones was the aggressor in the stand, striking five boundaries in a span of six overs shortly after coming to the crease. Jones was also able to benefit from some sloppy USA fielding. Jones misfielded badly at deep backward square leg to turn a single into four in a failed attempt to kick the ball from going over the rope in the 14th. Stevenson then spilled a straightforward chance off Gore’s bowling at short midwicket with Jones on 35 in the 15th over.
The Durham product capitalized on the errors to reach his half-century off 66 balls with a reverse sweep through third man in the 24th over for his eighth boundary. Gore injured himself trying to track the ball down from backward point, pulling up clutching his right hamstring. He left the field and did not return for the rest of the match. His fitness status for the rest of the tour is uncertain.
Yet USA’s bowling attack rallied to overcome the loss of Gore in the field. Kenjige induced a spectacular return catch diving to his left to dismiss Jones for 52. MacLeod and Berrington added 51 for the fourth wicket but Holland followed up his solid day with the bat by contributing a momentum-shifting spell of medium pace. One ball after being smoked over long-off for six, he got Berrington to drag on for 34. Four overs later, George Munsey drive him straight over long-on for six but was foxed by a slower ball four balls later and skied a catch over the pitch claimed by Homraj calling off Holland to dismiss Munsey for 16 making it 193 for 5.
Still, Scotland appeared in control as long as MacLeod was in the middle. He brought up his half-century off 71 balls cutting Stevenson high over point. MacLeod then went back to his trademark slog sweep in the 42nd, heaving Kenjige over the leg side for his third six having slog swept a pair of them earlier in his innings, including another off Kenjige to chase him out of the attack in the 22nd. Dylan Budge gave him tremendous support in a rapid stand as Budge put pressure on USA’s fielders with a trio of twos in the 43rd. That fast-running intensity spurred a misfield from Taylor at the end of the over to turn a single into four for Budge through extra cover and with six overs left, Scotland needed just 42 off 36 balls.
Having gone wicketless in his first seven overs, Stevenson was brought back in the 45th and dislodged Budge with a bottom edged attempted cut dragged onto his stumps for 27. The required run rate climbed after Theron conceded just four off the 46th and Stevenson seized on the dot ball pressure by inducing a spliced heave from MacLeod on the first ball of the 47th, brilliantly caught by Jones charging forward from the 30-yard circle at midwicket to pull off a diving effort. Stevenson took his third wicket three balls later when Watt was bowled by a full length delivery to make it 246 for 8.
Theron showed his killer instinct in the 48th, wrapping up the match with the first two balls of the over. Evans was bowled by a full length delivery before another ball pitched up to Hamza Tahir trapped him lbw to complete a sensational rally by USA in the field.
Stevenson ended with 3 for 43 in nine overs while Theron took 3 for 46 in 8.2. Holland ended with 2 for 43 in his crucial eight-over spell while Netravalkar took 1 for 34 in his nine overs. Kenjige was expensive, getting hit hard in his final two overs by MacLeod to end with 1 for 50 in seven after he had dislodged Jones earlier.
USA now has two days off before taking on UAE in their next match at ICC Academy on Thursday, December 12. Scotland has one day off before taking on the UAE in their second match of the tri-series at Sharjah on Wednesday, December 11.