Opening batsman Sai Mukkamalla struck a half-century as Mid-Atlantic moved to 3-0 in Group A and clinched a berth in the tournament final with a seven-wicket win over West Zone Blues on day four at the 2021 USA Cricket U19 National Championship in Texas.
Picture credit: Peter Della Penna
By Peter Della Penna in Houston (Twitter @PeterDellaPenna
Mid-Atlantic opening batsman Sai Mukkamalla continued his hot form in Texas with 69 off 58 balls in a seven-wicket win over West Zone Blues in Group A play on Thursday at the 2021 USA Cricket U19 National Championship at Prairie View Cricket Complex. Mukkamalla overtook South West batsman Rehman Dar for the tournament scoring lead during the innings while Mid-Atlantic’s win clinched the top spot in Group A and a berth in the tournament final on Saturday. They await the winner of Friday’s contest in Group B between undefeated sides South West and West Zone Reds.
Mid-Atlantic won the toss and elected to bowl first in a match that was reduced to 40 overs after a two-hour delayed start due to heavy overnight rain and morning fog that produced a wet outfield. Shapnil Roy’s two wickets during a new ball spell helped reduce Blues to 21 for 3 in nine overs and from there, the Blues focused on stretching out the innings to the 40th
over rather than apply any aggression. Sahil Kancherla and Andrew Daluwatte added 56 in a stodgy fourth wicket stand that spanned 18.4 overs before Mid Atlantic captain Nitish Mahesh broke the resistance with his offspin producing a catch at cover. Ritwik Behera came on for a late spell and helped wipe out the tail with 3 for 23 as Blues were bowled out for 134 on the final ball of the innings.
Mid-Atlantic were jolted briefly in the chase when left-arm pacer Ayan Desai struck on back-to-back balls, bowling Akhil Thuremella for 4 and then trapping Chaitanya Parwal next ball lbw for a golden duck. But Mukkamalla combined with Yasir Mohammad for a 95-run partnership to settle any nerves. As usual, Mukkamalla was especially ruthless square of the wicket, punishing the Blues attack with a series of pulls and cuts. He moved to 48 with a lofted on-drive for six and later pulled over midwicket for another six to go along with nine fours. His innings ended when he was stumped overstretching to Akhilesh Swamy’s spin in the 19th
Mohammad played an elegant knock in his unbeaten 42 off 44 balls. The left-hander played the shot of the day with a gracefully lofted drive over mid-off for six and later struck the winning runs connecting on a revers sweep over backward point for his sixth four as victory was clinched with 20 overs to spare.
Play resumes on Friday with three contests on tap. Aside from the first place showdown in Group B between South West and Reds, South Zone take on Colts with the winner clinching second place in Group A and a spot in the third place match on Saturday. East Zone play Midwest in a battle of winless sides to round off Group B.