Photo credit: Peter Della Penna
USA's inability to combat spin bowling continued to haunt them on Saturday in Kathmandu as Nepal's vaunted slow bowling unit decimated the visiting batting effort in a 35-run defeat to leave USA 0 for 2 midway through the Cricket World Cup League Two ODI tri-series.
By Peter Della Penna in Kathmandu, Nepal (Twitter @PeterDellaPenna)
USA’s batting order woes showed no signs of abating in Kathmandu on Saturday afternoon as four wickets fell in the first four overs, a hole that was too steep to climb out of at 13 for 4 chasing a target of 191 in an eventual 35-run defeat to hosts Nepal in the third ODI of the Cricket World Cup League Two tri-series at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Nepal.
The host side were in similar trouble at 49 for 5 after being sent in by USA but 15-year-old debutant Kushal Malla led a sensational counterattack on his way to becoming the youngest ever men’s player to score an ODI half-century. Along with Binod Bhandari, who also scored a fifty, Nepal were able to scrape together a defendable total before Man of the Match Karan KC and Sandeep Lamichhane ripped apart USA in the early part of the chase.
USA brought in Cameron Stevenson in place of Timil Patel following their loss to Oman on Thursday and chose to bowl first after winning the toss hoping to exploit seam friendly conditions in the morning backed by five pace options to choose from. Meanwhile, Nepal made two changes, bringing in the in form Subash Khakurel for the injured Sharad Vesawkar while Kushal entered in place of Rohit Paudel.
Khakurel could not follow up his half-century against USA as captain of the Nepal President’s XI on Tuesday. Sent out to open the batting with captain Gyanendra Malla, Khakurel made three before he edged Rusty Theron to Monank Patel at third slip during a superb opening spell from the 34-year-old.
Paras Khadka joined Malla and the pair added 40 for the second wicket. While Theron regularly beat the outside edge at his end, Elmore Hutchinson effectively wasted the new ball at the opposite end with a spell of 0 for 11 in five overs that was mostly non-threatening with both batsmen regularly leaving the ball alone well outside off stump. The stand was finally broken when Stevenson replaced Theron and induced a false drive from Malla to create an edge to Steven Taylor standing at wide slip to go for 21 at 46 for 2.
The wicket of Malla sparked a mini collapse of four wickets for three runs as Stevenson and captain Saurabh Netravalkar worked in tandem to build solid pressure on Nepal’s middle order, bowling three maidens in a row that accounted for two of the next three wickets. Dipendra Singh Airee pushed too hard at a fullish ball from Netravalkar that sailed to Xavier Marshall at mid-off for a second-ball duck. Khadka finally fell for 19 to end the 18th when he feathered an attempted hook off Stevenson through to Akshay Homraj. Aarif Sheikh completed the slide when Nosthush Kenjige, on as a sub fielder at mid-off, took an outrageous one-handed catch reaching high with his left hand to intercept a smoldering drive off Netravalkar making it 49 for 5 after 21.
But Kushal did not hesitate to counterpunch, driving clubbing a four and six in the 22nd off Stevenson during a 12-run over to bring the home crowd back to life. He drove Netravalkar elegantly for another six in the 25th, then swatted Taylor for another boundary in the following over, USA’s first appearance from spin in the match. Bhandari clubbed a meatball from Taylor for six in the 27th, chasing him from the attack after just two overs. A cut off Theron behind point for another four by Bhandari brought up the 50 partnership and the Nepal 100 in the 30th over.
USA had a chance to break the stand in the 32nd but Monank flubbed a simple chance at mid-off with Kushal on 38. Two balls after Kushal had slapped a length ball from Theron over midwicket for four, Theron fooled him with a change of pace that resulted in the batsman out in front spooning a tame skier to mid-off, but Monank shelled the chance, allowing the stand to continue. Kushal eventually brought up his half-century with a single off Holland in the 35th, breaking the record of Paudel, the man he replaced in the XI, as the youngest men’s player to score an ODI fifty at 15 years, 340 days.
It took the intervention of Karima Gore to remove Kushal in the 36th as the left-handed batsman yanked a short ball flat to Hutchinson at deep midwicket to fall for exactly 50, ending an 84-run partnership with Bhandari that took Nepal back from despair. But curiously it was the last over Gore would bowl and the last of USA’s four overs of spin on the day.
Stevenson returned in place of Gore and struck two overs later, getting Karan with a tickled edge down the leg side well caught by a diving Homraj for 12. With Bhandari on 42, Lamichhane played an ill-advised slog on his second ball to Hutchinson, skying a catch to Taylor at long-on to make it 155 for 8.
But Bhandari maturely shepherded Sushan Bhari to stretch out the innings. Gore had a chance to catch Bhari on 5 in the 43rd over but could not hang on to a tough chance diving forward at backward point off Hutchinson. Bhandari then smashed Hutchinson straight down the ground for a boundary to bring up his half-century in the 45th, but a mistimed skier a few balls later over mid-off was misjudged badly by Netravalkar, who charged to his right late before diving but was unable to come up with what should have been another simple catch. Bhandari wound up reaching 59 as a result before he fell with 15 balls left in the innings, charging Theron and flicking a thin edge through to Homraj to make it 181 for 9. Bhari and Avinash Bohara added nine more runs before Holland claimed Bhari with a slower bouncer to end the innings with four balls unused.
Stevenson ended with 3 for 30, his fourth consecutive ODI taking three wickets. Netravalkar ended with 2 for 28 and Theron 2 for 41 bowling out their full quota along with Stevenson. Hutchinson returned 1 for 20 in eight overs, ending as USA’s most economical bowled on the day though his figures were far more flattering than the numbers indicate. Holland took 1 for 39 in 7.2 overs while Gore ended with 1 for 11 in two.
USA’s decision to chase against Nepal’s vaunted spin attack was always going to be a risky proposition, especially after they were bowled out for 74 chasing a target of 112 against a Nepal President’s XI on Tuesday. So it was little surprise that USA’s batting order produced a similarly feeble display against Nepal’s first choice bowling attack when chasing a far heftier total.
The Aaron Jones opener experiment failed once again. Taking the new ball to bowl legspin, Lamichhane set him up beautifully by bowling a stock legbreak wide outside off that was cut for four before coming back with a googly that pinned Jones on the crease in front of middle and leg stump for a straightforward lbw decision 10 balls into the chase. Taylor’s miserable run with the bat continued with a four-ball duck, chipping a leg-stump half-volley from Karan loosely to Airee at midwicket in the ring in the third over. Marshall fell two balls later, fending with an angled bat in defense to give a thin edge behind to Bhandari for 2. Monank then became Lamichhane’s second lbw googly victim in the fourth, defending down the wrong line to be out for four making it 13 for 4 as the crowd was whipped into a frenzy.
That fervor grew lounder one ball after the end of the Powerplay when Homraj’s attempted cut off Bhari’s first ball resulted in an edge behind for 5 to make it 27 for 5. Gore lasted 20 balls before his attempted cut off Bhari resulted in a stunning catch by Khadka at slip, who stabbed the ball left-handed as it came quick and low at knee height to make it 50 for 6. Hutchinson’s poor day continued when he was bowled by Kushal for 3 to make it 65 for 7 at the start of the 22nd.
Just when it seemed USA was on the verge of a humiliating defeat, the Victorian duo of Holland and Stevenson dug in to save face. As he did two days earlier against Oman, Holland made excellent use of the paddle sweep to pick off runs through fine leg. A misfield by Kushal at mid-on produced a boundary to take him to 46 before a cut next ball off Bohara’s medium pace behind point brought him to 50 off 80 balls. Stevenson did his share of boundary striking as well to keep the partnership moving. But with the pair one run away from a fifty stand, Stevenson was given out on an attempted paddle sweep with an appeal for caught behind by Bhandari upheld to make it 114 for 8.
Holland continued on, surviving a close shave on 56 when a reverse sweep off Khadka resulted in a top edge to backward point that fell safely when Bohara and Lamichhane nearly collided going for the ball as it rolled past them for four. A runout chance was missed on 64 as well when Theron turned down a single off a sweep to fine leg on the last ball of the 36th. Holland wanted to keep strike and bolted, only to be turned back and gave up but Khakurel’s throw from short fine leg missed.
With 10 overs left, USA needed just 51 to win but Karan was brought back into the attack and finally dislodged Holland with a back of a length ball that found the edge on an attempted cut for another Bhandari catch. Karan then struck for a fourth time on the day to end the match, getting Theron to pull to deep midwicket on the first ball of the 45th as USA were all out for 155.
Karan’s 4 for 15 in 7.1 overs allowed him to upstage Kushal and Bhandari for Man of the Match honors. Kushal added figures of 1 for 30 in 10 overs to his first innings 50. Lamichhane ended with figures of 2 for 27 in 10, unable to add to his double-strike in the Powerplay. Bhari claimed 3 for 43 in another solid effort after his ODI debut against Oman.
USA now has two days off before taking on Oman on Tuesday. Nepal meanwhile comes straight back on Sunday for a rematch against Oman as the hosts look to avenge an opening day loss.