USA Women suffered their first blemish of the tournament, and their first loss ever in ICC Americas Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier competitions, stumbling badly in a chase of a target of 86 as Canada spin bowler Hala Azmat took 4 for 15 in a Player of the Match performance to restrict USA to 78 for 7 in an eventual seven-run loss to Canada on day five of the 2021 ICC Americas Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier at the Reforma Athletic Club in Mexico. It’s USA’s first loss to Canada in any format since 2010 and means that USA now must beat Argentina on the final day of the tournament to clinch the tournament title outright.
“I think it was our batting,” USA head coach Julia Price said when asked about the main reason for the loss. “I think our plans are pretty poor. We’ve talked about strike rotation in between fours, even though fours have been difficult to get, and we just didn’t have that. Too many dots today, I think it was over 80, which is just unacceptable.”
USA won the toss and elected to field first with three enforced chances as Chetnaa Prasad plus leading bowlers Tara Norris and Suhani Thadani all sat out with food poisoning, leading to a debut for 16-year-old batter Laasya Mullapudi. Divya Saxena top-scored for Canada with 40, and teamed with Miryam Khokhar for a 65-run opening partnership, but her innings could have been nipped in the bud on two occasions.
The first occurred just four balls into the match on her first ball on strike facing Sara Farooq. Saxena tried to cut a short ball that lobbed up off a top edge into short cover. With Farooq, wicketkeeper Sindhu Sriharsh and Gargi Bhogle at extra cover all converging on the top-edge chance, Saxena ran diagonally straight into the flighted path of the ball into the covers with her head up following the ball in the air rather than running toward the non-striker’s end, interfering with the trio’s attempt to catch the ball. Once the ball landed safely on the ground, Saxena turned back to return to her crease. USA immediately appealed for obstructing the field, but standing umpire Nigel Duguid and Sameer Bandekar at square leg gave Saxena not out after a brief discussion.
Saxena was then dropped off the bowling of Moksha Chaudhary in the sixth over on a skied chance over mid-on, where Akshatha Rao spilled the catching opportunity on 7. It allowed the partnership with Khokhar to continue as USA struggled badly to find a breakthrough without Norris nor Thadani to call upon.
The stand was finally broken in the 15th when Rao got a back of a length ball to spit off the pitch and ping Khokhar in the gloves with a deflection popping up gently for Sriharsha to take behind the stumps and end Khokhar’s innings for 27. Rao claimed Saxena in her next over as another back of a length ball was pulled straight to Bhogle at short midwicket. Farooq then bowled a wicket maiden in the 18th to rally USA back further in the field, bowling Kate Gray for 1. The last wicket to fall came on the final ball of the innings as Rao relayed from long-on to Chaudhary over the stumps at the bowler’s end to deny a second run to Mukhwinder Gill with Achini Perera run out at the non-striker’s end for 5. Gill ended not out on 9 as Canada ended on 85 for 4.
Rao rebounded from a sloppy start with the ball to end with 2 for 22 in her four overs. Farooq claimed 1 for 12 in four as USA’s only other wicket-taker. Uzma Iftikhar (0 for 7 in four), Chaudhary (0 for 20 in four) and Geetika Kodali (0 for 24 in four) all ended wicketless for USA.
USA’s chase floundered from the start as dot balls were racked up early and often, with an eventual total of 85 dots in their 120 legal deliveries faced. Bhogle was the first to fall, slicing Gill’s medium pace to point for Khokha to take a catch for 3 in the third over. Shebani Bhaskar then paid the price for trying to hit over the infield, driving a sharp catch to Perera on the ring at mid-on for 14 to make it 28 for 2 in the eighth for Azmat’s first wicket. The eighth over soon turned into a double-wicket maiden for Azmat as Anika Kolan couldn’t get to the pitch of a flighted delivery and chipped a return catch to Azmat for a second-ball duck.
A bigger sign that it was going to be Canada’s day came in the 10th over when Sriharsha’s pull to square leg was intercepted by Canada captain Kamna Mirchandani, who took a stunning one-handed catch diving to her right to remover the USA captain for 8. Mullapudi made 5 on debut after entering at No. 6 before she was giving out caught behind edging Azmat to the keeper Sana Zafar on a failed charge down the wicket.
15-year-old Isani Vaghela did her best to bring USA back into the chase with the required run rate climbing above a run a ball with 45 off 42 needed to win on a difficult batting wicket. Vaghela pulled Azmat through midwicket for a boundary in the 14th during a nine-run over, USA’s best to that stage. But momentum was stunted a short time later as Iftikhar batted out a maiden against left-arm seamer Hiba Shamshad in the 16th.
With 24 needed off the final 12 balls, Vaghela finally got out for 20 to start the 18th over, skying a pull off Saniya Zia that was taken by Zafar, holding on after a collision with another Canada teammate. With 21 needed off the last over, Kodali entered at No. 8 and kept the faintest hope alive, driving a boundary over mid-on off the second ball of the final over. Iftikhar was runout by a direct hit from Gill at long-off trying to come back for a second run off the following delivery. By the final delivery, USA needed eight runs to win and a dot ball from Shamshad ended the match.
Aside from Azmat’s 4 for 15, Gill claimed 1 for 3 in her two overs while Zia took 1 for 16 in her four. Saxena bowled a key economical spell to finish with 0 for 13 in three while Sonali Vig did the same, ending with 0 for 8 in three. Shamshad was expensive early but rallied back with the maiden against Iftikhar to end with 0 for 23 in four.
Canada face Brazil in the early match on the final day of the tournament. The winner of that match will finish on 4-2 and will need USA to lose to Argentina to bring net run rate into the equation as the tournament tiebreaker. USA faces winless Argentina in the final match of the event scheduled for 2 pm local time. A USA win will guarantee them the tournament title.