6, 6, 2, 2, 6. These numbers are not digits of a phone number. They are a step-by-step description of how USA avenged their defeat against Canada from 2 nights back.
The chasing team needed 22 off the final over, the batsman in charge went on a six-hitting spree and won the game with a ball to spare. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? However, the chants this time were not “Remember the Name”, but instead “Tay-LOR! Tay-LOR” and “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
Ex-USA Captain, and arguably the most talented batsmen in the current USA batting line-up, Steven Taylor, smashed 3 sixes from 5 balls in the final over to put a fitting end to an extraordinary match at Morrisville. USA had needed 22 off that final Junaid Siddiqui over, but Taylor stood tall and delivered the most remarkable, preposterous and astonishing win in the history of USA Cricket. Junaid Siddiqui, the intrepid Canadian allrounder, was the bowler at the other end who slumped after each mighty blow that sailed into the stands. You couldn't write it, and if you did, it would be in the fiction section. Five balls, three sixes, and the match that was Canada’s till the 19th over of the run chase vanished. The USA players streamed onto the field in jubilation. They had not only done it, they had done it in style!
Tossing the ball to the leg-spinner in the last over against a left-handed batsman was not the smartest of plans from Canada. But they were left with no overs from their specialist death seamers. This highlighted the lack of depth in the bowling, the lack of on-the-spot decisions and most importantly, planning out overs to have your best bowlers bowl at the right time. This issue holds valid for USA as well – we saw them not have any overs left from their spearhead, Ali Khan, in the last over of the previous game which Rizwan Cheema made them pay for.
You could sense the relief on Nitish Kumar’s face as he won the toss chose to bat on a lovely Carolina evening. The Canadian openers dominated and put up 34 runs in 4 overs with Navneet Dhaliwal being severe on Saurabh Netravalkar who went too short on a slow track. An inspired bowling change and the evergreen Elmore struck twice in one over to remove both the openers and bring USA right back in the game. Timil Patel once again bowled only one over and runs were scored with wickets falling at regular intervals. Hamza Tariq played a nice cameo scoring 31 off just 17 balls before he was dismissed by Roy Silva, probably the best medium pacer for USA in this tournament. Rizwan Cheema (27 off 12 balls) and Nikhil Dutta (31 off 21 balls) punished some sloppy USA fielding and ordinary bowling and propelled Canada to a very comfortable total of 173. USA’s under-bowling of Timil and Taylor on slowish tracks remains a mystery.
Canada couldn’t have asked for a better start to their bowling as Pervez cleaned up the in-form Monank Patel for a duck. Malhotra went on a six-hitting spree before being caught behind of Heylinger. Sunny Sohal continued his poor form against Canadian spinners and USA collapsed to 67 for 6 at the end of 10 overs; with Timil Patel and Steven Taylor at the crease. They dug in and built a good partnership to take USA to 112 for 7 before Timil played a loose shot and lost his wicket. It was now up to the ‘big-man’, Steven Taylor, to bring USA home; but he could not do that without handy contributions from the lower order. Taylor well set on 46 took the route he likes the best and took on Dutta in the next over as he blasted 3 sixes and the crowd got into the game.
The ability to put adversity aside and to play this type of cricket was just tremendous. Taylor assumed the role of being the messiah to play one of the most remarkable cricketing innings and probably his best as he amassed 96 not out off just 54 balls and more importantly, guide USA to victory!
While the victory was sweet and well cherished, USA were left with more questions than answers before the WCL Division Three in Oman. In a post-match interview, coach Pubudu Dassanayake also concurred and expressed the need to work harder and improve playing standards by a few notches to succeed in the big ICC event in Oman.