Sai Mukkamalla was mobbed by his teammates after a direct hit from the boundary to runout Dev Khanel in what was a turning point during the chase in which USA ultimately prevailed.
Photo credit: Peter Della Penna
By Peter Della Penna in Pearland, Texas (Twitter @PeterDellaPenna)
USA ended the back-to-back ODI tri-series in Texas as the only side with a winning record after a solid all-round fielding display ensured that a total of 245 was defended in a 39-run victory in the final ODI at Moosa Stadium on Wednesday as part of ICC Cricket World Cup League Two in Pearland, Texas. Ali Khan bounced out both Nepal openers in the Powerplay before Nosthush Kenjige’s wicket of Rohit Paudel in the 17th followed a short-time later by a superb direct hit runout from the cover boundary by Sai Mukkamalla in the 20th claimed the well-set Dev Khanel to make it 88 for 4. From there, Nepal remained behind the eight-ball for the rest of the chase and could not track down the target despite a battling half-century from Aarif Sheikh. The win meant USA finished their eight ODIs with a record of four wins, three losses and a tie to claim nine points out of 16 as they remain in fourth place on the tournament points table, three points behind UAE.
USA was sent in to bat first after losing the toss with Khan and Mukkamalla coming back into the starting XI in place of Rusty Theron and Yasir Mohammad. Nepal fast bowler Karan KC, who was later named Player of the Series, struck on the fifth ball of play, getting Steven Taylor slicing a drive to sub fielder Sunil Dhamala at backward point for 1. Karan struck again in his next over, getting Monank Patel to drive a soft catch to Adil Alam diving to his left on the ring at cover to send the USA captain off for 4 at 8 for 2.
Aaron Jones and Sushant Modani then propped up the innings with an 88-run third-wicket partnership. Jones took advantage of the Powerplay restrictions, striking his first ball through the off side for four before clipping two more boundaries off Sompal Kami in the sixth over. Modani seized on some short-pitched bowling to pull a series of boundaries through midwicket, tallying seven fours during his 54 off 83 balls.
But after the end of the Powerplay, Jones slowed down significantly and eventually succumbed to the offspin of Dipendra Singh Airee. Having been on 23 off 23 balls after 11 overs, Jones could only manage singles and dots across the next 13 overs until he was finally dismissed off the first ball of the 25th, prodding away from his body and given out caught behind for 43 off 60 balls to make it 96 for 3.
Modani rode his luck to reach a half-century off 78 balls, having survived three chances along the way. He took on Airee’s arm at mid-off in the fourth over on 1 where a bullet to the non-striker’s stumps was wide. Left-arm spinner Sagar Dhakal could not hold onto a firm return chance on 37 in the 20th over before the third life came on 45 just a ball before Modani reached his fifty when Rohit Paudel’s one-handed diving effort off Airee could not deny a boundary. Modani finally fell in the 28th after his lofted drive with the wind failed to clear Khanel at long-off to give Sandeep Lamichhane his first wicket to make it 110 for 4 in the 28th.
Mukkamalla was joined by Gajanand Singh and the pair counterattacked in a sharp 85-run fifth-wicket stand to give momentum back to USA. Gajanand sparked the fightback with a six pulled off Alam over the leg side in the 30th over before Mukkmalla joined in with a string of lofted straight drives for four. With seven overs to go, Mukkamalla tried to pick up the run rate further and fell for 36 heaving a slog that produced a top-edge to Khanel in the ring at cover for Kami’s first wicket. Gajanand fell in the next over, slog sweeping Lamichhane into the wind to Paudel at deep midwicket for 58.
Despite the removal of both set batters, USA’s tail managed to add 45 off the final 33 balls in a crucial late burst, capped by 15 off the final over mostly off the bat of Cameron Stevenson, who ended 16 not out off 10 balls. Nisarg Patel added an unbeaten 16 at a run a ball while Nosthush Kenjige also contributed 9 off 8 balls before he was bowled heaving across the line to give Karan another wicket.
Karan ended with 3 for 67 in nine overs. Kami claimed 1 for 57 in nine. Lamichhane took 2 for 43 in 10 while Airee took 1 for 43 with his offspin. Dhakal bowled a very tidy but wicketless spell to end with 0 for 21 in 10.
Khan’s new-ball fire gave a handy reminder of what USA had been missing in their narrow loss to Oman in their previous ODI on Sunday as he picked up the wickets of Kushal Bhurtel and Aasif Sheikh with a pair of well-directed short balls. Bhurtel fell in the sixth for 10, hooking to Saurabh Netravalkar at deep backward square leg. Aasif survived a top edged pull in the eighth that just landed beyong the cover fielder but could not help himself in the 10th in what would be Khan’s final over of his opening spell in 95F Texas heat, top-edging another attempted hook that fluttered to Taylor at midwicket in the ring for 18 to make it 38 for 2.
Kenjige was introduced in the attack at the end of the Powerplay and conceded 10 runs in his first over, including a slog sweep for six by Paudel. But when the 19-year-old tried to repeat the shot a few overs later, he was trapped lbw to Kenjige for 16 to make it 69 for 3 in the 17th. Another pivotal blow was struck three overs later when the well-set Khanel ran himself out for 34 taking on Mukkamalla’s arm for a second from the cover boundary. Khanel briefly hesitated when deciding to settle for one or come back to the striker’s end and paid the price when Mukkamalla’s bullet from 65 yards pinged into the stumps with Khanel two yards short to make it 88 for 4. Airee then feathered an edge behind for 7 on a failed cut off Nisarg in the 22nd to make it 93 for 5.
Kami was sent in at No. 7 to join Aarif and stretch the game out with still half the overs remaining and the pair grafted out a 106-run partnership spanning 23.2 overs. But the breakthroughs USA made in the first half of the chase stunted Nepal’s ability to attack as the pair only shared four boundaries between them whereas the left-arm spin duo of Kenjige and Nisarg combined to dry up the runs, conceding just 62 runs off 20 overs.
With the required run rate having climbed above eight and boundaries difficult to find, the pressure finally produced a wicket to break the stand in the 45th when Netravalkar came back for a death spell and got Aarif for 63, pulling to Kenjige at long-on who held onto a juggling effort on the second attempt. Two balls later, the second spectacular runout of the chase was pulled off when Netravalkar ran into short midwicket off his own bowling off a miscued flick from Alam before underhanding into the striker’s stumps to catch Kami short of completing a single for 47.
With 46 needed off five overs and three wickets in hand, Nepal had faint hope alive with Alam joined by fellow big-hitting Karan. But the match only lasted another 16 balls. Netravalkar bowled both Karan and Sandeep Lamichhane for 1 and 0 respectively on attempted heaves across the line in the 48th to be on a hat-trick before Alam became the final wicket to fall for 4, caught by Taylor off Khan who then sprinted off toward the Nepal fans in the King Stand on the western boundary to tease them with a celebratory dance to the beat and rhythm of the dholi, Houston-area superfan Amar Moturu, who had been drumming away throughout the entirety of the tour in support of USA on the same side of the ground.
Khan ended with 3 for 32 in 8.4 overs to lead USA’s attack. Netravalkar’s death spell snared him 3 for 44 in nine overs. Kenjige finished with 1 for 30 in 10 while Nisarg took 1 for 32 in his 10 overs. Stevenson (0 for 36 in six), Taylor (0 for 12 in one) and Jones (0 for 16 in three) all went wicketless.
USA’s next touring assignment is in Zimbabwe for the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier in July where they must finish in the top two of the eight-team event in order to reach the World Cup in Australia. USA’s next scheduled ODIs as part of ICC Cricket World Cup League Two will be in Aberdeen, Scotland in August when they will join the UAE in visiting the hosts for a six-match series.