Xavier Marshall's first century in USA colors was a flawless 170 off 147 balls to propel USA to a 32-run win over a UAE Developmental XI at The Sevens Ground in Dubai.
By Peter Della Penna in Dubai
Opening batsman Xavier Marshall creamed 170 off 147 balls, including 14 fours and 10 sixes, outdueling Amjad Khan’s 128 off 94 balls for the UAE Developmental XI as USA held on to win a high-scoring encounter by 32 runs at The Sevens Ground in Dubai.
For the second day in a row, USA was sent in after losing the toss and Marshall nearly carried his bat before falling in the 47th over. After threatening a big one with a pair of well-composed half-centuries in USA’s last two matches against Lancashire and the UAE Developmental XI, Marshall exploded on Friday for his first century in a USA uniform.
He started his innings in relatively sedate fashion, coasting to 20 off 27 balls in the Powerplay while his partners at the other end had difficulty negotiating the new ball. Monank Patel had struck four boundaries off his previous nine deliveries with some sensational driving but left-arm medium pacer Saif Noor nabbed him in the fifth by dragging his length a fraction wider to clip the outside edge for a catch behind by wicketkeeper Abdul Shakoor.
Steven Taylor clubbed the first three balls he faced for boundaries, but his impatience resulted in a flat-footed drive for another edge behind off Noor for 13 off 7 balls making it 47 for 2. Aaron Jones then suffered his first true failure of the tour, bowled by left-arm spinner Rahul Bhatia for 4 to make it 61 for 3 after 10.
Not long after Jaskaran Malhotra’s arrival at the crease, Marshall opened up to punish Bhatia in the 12th over, coming down the track to drive over long-on for his first six before Bhatia overcorrected too short resulting in another six pulled over midwicket. Two more straight drives for four off left-arm pacer Arslan Javed took him to 48 and a single on the first ball after drinks in the 16th brought up his half-century off 44 balls.
Malhotra provided solid support at the opposite end during a 102-run stand with Marshall, who slowed down significantly during his second fifty runs in the face of some solid legspin bowling from Karthik Meiyappan. Malhotra’s first two scoring shots were boundaries off Bhatia in the 14th, but he didn’t hit another the rest of his innings as he focused on rotating the strike. He finally perished trying to slog sweep left-arm spinning allrounder Aryan Lakha for six and was well caught by 14-year-old Kai Smith on the deep midwicket boundary, though there was some initial dispute as to whether the fielder had stepped on the rope before Malhotra continued to walk off at 163 for 4 in the 32nd.
By the second drinks break, Marshall was on 96 off 109 balls. But in his first opportunity after play resumed, he brought up three figures pulling Lakha behind square for his 10th four. He was still striking at under a run a ball through the 40th over, but then started to pick up steam in the 42nd against Meiyappan. The legspinner had conceded just 31 in his first nine overs but Marshall and Hayden Walsh teed off on him for 19 runs, the start of a surge in which USA added 89 in 7.3 overs before they were bowled out. After Walsh had started the over charging Meiyappan for six over long-on, Marshall got on strike and drove him over extra cover for four before ending the over with a six over long-on. Walsh finally fell in the 43rd edging an attempted cut behind to give Noor his third, ending a 69-run stand.
Two overs later, Marshall smacked Javed for six over midwicket, then hammered a straight drive straight back into the left bicep of newly arrived batsman Jannisar Khan at the non-striker’s end, requiring treatment from the USA physio. Once play resumed, Marshall flicked a four past fine leg before driving over long-off for six to go to 146. His 150 came up a few balls later in the 45th off Noor, flicking a slower ball off his pads for four as he sped from 100 to his next 50 in just 25 balls.
Jannisar fell in the 46th, missing a paddle sweep to Bhatia but Marshall was unfazed as he charged the left-arm spinner and hit him over long-on and into the access driveway beyond the ground for the biggest six of the match. After a replacement ball was delivered, Marshall dispatched that too over long-off for another six. New man Roy Silva fell in the following over caught at deep midwicket by Lakha for Noor’s fourth and Marshall’s innings ended in similar fashion as Lakha took a spectacular diving catch to finally bring Marshall’s epic to an end, giving Noor five wickets in the process to put him on a hat-trick for the start of the 49th over.
Saurabh Netravalkar drove Javed to long-off for the ninth USA wicket in the following over. Hutchinson saw off the hat-trick ball from Noor but was bowled missing a flick to a good length ball two deliveries later to give Noor 6 for 42 and leave nine balls unused in USA’s innings with a total of 302.
The failure to bat out their overs almost came back to bite USA as Amjad produced an equally ferocious innings in the chase for UAE. The hosts hardly looked a chance to chase the target after scoring just two runs in their first four overs. But two boundaries by Ansh Tandon in the eighth off Silva got their wheels moving. The opening stand with Lakha eventually totaled 40 before Lakha was stumped overbalancing for 24 while reaching forward to drive Taylor’s offspin.
The wicket brought Amjad to the crease and after scoring just one off his first eight balls, he started to find his rhythm in the 17th, aided by some shoddy USA fielding as he was dropped for the first of four times in his innings. One ball after slog sweeping Kenjige over midwicket for six, Amjad creamed a drive on 12 to Silva at extra cover but the chance burst through his hands reaching across his body.
Walsh had just arrived for a spell of legspin at the opposite end and struck to get Tandon playing inside the line of a googly to be lbw for 18 before Shakoor fell in identical fashion for 13 a few overs later to make it 92 for 3 after 20. Captain Fahad Nawaz only faced six balls before retiring hurt with a twisted right ankle that was sustained while fielding in the first innings. It brought Vriitya Aravind to the crease, who scored five off his first three balls before dot ball pressure from Kenjige and Netravalkar resulted in him driving Kenjige softly to Walsh at extra cover for the fourth wicket.
Amjad had just brought up a 46-ball half-century and continued to press his foot on the accelerator as he pummeled Kenjige in the 30th for a four and a six. The left-arm spinner had a chance to end his innings for 75 on the last ball of the over but spilled a softly driven return chance after getting into a tangle trying to avoid a collision with Smith at the non-striker’s end. Smith got out in the following over, attempting to play a release shot charging down the pitch only to be bowled by a slower ball from Silva for a 10-ball duck to make it 143 for 5. Alishan Sharafu didn’t last much longer, stumped for 9 off Kenjige taking a half step down the pitch trying to poke Kenjige through the off side to make it 158 for 6.
Javed arrived and combined with Amjad for UAE Developmental XI’s biggest partnership of the day for 64 runs in just 5.3 overs, one in which they threatened to steal a victory from USA. After smashing an unbeaten 43 off 23 balls a day earlier entering at No. 10, Javed clubbed a brisk 21 while Javed continued to make the most of his luck at the other end. Amjad was spilled at long-on by Hutchinson on 86 diving forward to a flat drive off the bowling of Silva. He was dropped for the fourth time on 89 just a few deliveries later in the following over off the bowling of Kenjige when Monank spilled a somewhat less difficult chance on the midwicket boundary that went over the rope for six. A boundary and a single later, Javed had his century off 75 balls.
A 16-run over off Walsh in the 38th brought the equation down to 104 off 12 overs as USA began to sweat in the field. A no ball by Taylor for overstepping in the 40th created a free hit for Amjad that wound up bringing about the end of the stand. He smashed the free hit and began running despite the fact that it went straight to Hutchinson at point. With both men on the verge of being at the same end, Javed belatedly sacrificed himself so that Amjad could continue his innings as Hutchinson relayed to Malhotra for the seventh wicket.
A possible fifth chance was left on the table with Amjad on 118 when Silva pulled out of a dive at long-off in the 41st off the bowling of Netravalkar, leaving the USA captain increasingly frustrated. With eight overs left, UAE Developmental XI needed a very manageable 61 off 48 balls but Javed’s catlike survival skills finally were curtailed on the first ball of the 43rd when he was runout trying to turn a single into two as Monank’s relay from short fine leg to Malhotra came in the nick of time to make it 243 for 8.
Nawaz returned to the crease after retiring earlier, but was still hampered by his injured ankle and he could not produce enough of a fight with the remainder of the tail. Bhatia was out driving Taylor to Netravalkar at extra cover in the 44th. With 33 needed off 21 balls, Nawaz was bowled by a slower ball from Netravalkar hosts innings at 270. Taylor claimed USA’s best figures on the day with 2 for 43 while Walsh and Kenjige were slightly more expensive returning 2 for 48 and 2 for 69 respectively.
USA has an off day on Saturday before returning to action on Sunday against the same UAE Developmental XI. Karima Gore, the 20-year-old drafted into the squad as injury cover for Ali Khan, was due to land in Dubai on Friday night and may be slotted straight into the starting lineup in order for management to evaluate his readiness as a possible option for WCL Division Two before the final squad is submitted to the ICC ahead of April’s tournament.