The New Jersey teenager became the youngest player to score a century for USA in limited overs cricket, eclipsing a mark previous held by Steven Taylor, and Mukkamalla did it while helping USA complete their highest ever successful chase.
File photo credit: Peter Della Penna
By Peter Della Penna (Twitter @PeterDellaPenna
Top-order batter Sai Mukkamalla helped create a double-dose of historic landmarks on Thursday in Namibia, becoming the youngest player to score a limited overs century for USA and in the process helping USA to complete their highest ever successful chase in limited overs cricket in a five-wicket win over the United Arab Emirates at United Cricket Club in Windhoek, Namibia.
Set a target of 280 to win, Mukkamalla steered the chase with an unbeaten 120 off 114 balls, including 12 fours after coming in at No. 3 in the ninth over. USA wound up reaching the target with an over to spare thanks to the heroics of the New Jersey native, who at 18 years and 355 days became USA’s youngest ever century maker and the fifth youngest to score a century in all men’s ODIs.
Prior to Mukkamalla, the mark for the youngest player to score a century in one-day cricket for USA had been held by Steven Taylor, who famously scored 162 off 102 balls against Nepal in Bermuda on the opening day of 2013 ICC World Cricket League Division Three. Taylor was the first American-born player to score a century on that occasion, bringing up three figures at the age of 19 years and 170 days.
Mukkamalla is the third American-born player to achieve the feat in USA’s limited overs history dating back to 1979. After Taylor in 2013, the second to do so was Aaron Jones when he scored a century against Namibia in Namibia during USA’s famous two-run win over the hosts at 2019 ICC WCL Division Two.
Both Taylor and Jones also scored their maiden official ODI centuries in 2022, becoming the first two American-born players to reach the landmark in matches labeled with ODI status. Taylor achieved the feat in USA’s infamous tie against Nepal in Texas while Jones did it in a losing effort against Scotland in Aberdeen, a match in which Calum MacLeod’s century in a chase secured victory for the hosts.
Just as if not more impressive was the fact that Mukkamalla’s feat came in the context of USA completing their highest successful chase, breaking a previous mark of hauling down a target of 257 against Hong Kong in Hong Kong on the opening day of 2011 ICC WCL Division Three in which USA won by seven wickets chasing the target with 10 balls to spare. On that occasion, USA captain Steve Massiah made an unbeaten 97 in the win at Kowloon Cricket Club, the small ground more famous for hosting the Hong Kong Sixes.
But on what would be characterized as cricket grounds with more traditional dimensions, USA had only ever successfully chased a target in excess of 250 four times in their limited overs history. Two of those came on the same tour of Scotland in 2022 where USA secured tense victories by two wickets over Scotland and one wicket over the UAE last August at Mannofield in Aberdeen while the other two matches took place against Namibia in Dubai during the 2004 ICC Six Nations Challenge and against Fiji at the 1986 ICC Trophy in England.
In all, USA has won three of their four matches so far in Namibia. Aside from their historic triumph over the UAE, USA has also produced wins against Namibia and Papua New Guinea by margins of 80 runs and 117 runs respectively. Their only loss came against Canada on day two when they failed to chase down a target of 199 to fall short by 26 runs. However, USA’s wide margins of victory in their other matches mean that they are currently in first place in the six-team ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier Playoff tournament in Namibia.
A win against Jersey on Tuesday, combined with a Canada loss to Namibia, would guarantee USA a top-two finish and a spot in Zimbabwe later this summer at the 10-team ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier. However, should USA lose to Jersey, they will end round-robin play at 3-2 and would need several other results to go their way in order to finish in the top two. The last time USA played Jersey in one-day cricket came in 2016 when Jersey defeated USA in Los Angeles by one run on the final day of round-robin play at WCL Division Four as USA stumbled just short of chasing a target of 250.