Steven Taylor became USA's all-time scorer in limited overs just after bringing up his maiden ODI ton, but the match will be remembered more for the dramatic last over where USA could not secure victory.
Photo credit: Peter Della Penna
By Peter Della Penna in Pearland, Texas (Twitter @PeterDellaPenna)
USA’s pursuit of what would have been their highest successful chase in their limited overs history looked a near certainty but a stumble at the final hurdle saw them lose two wickets off the final two balls with scores level as Nepal stunned USA to secure a dramatic tie on Saturday in the ninth ODI at Moosa Stadium in Pearland, Texas as part of ICC Cricket World Cup League Two. USA had six wickets in hand with the set pair of Aaron Jones and Rahul Jariwala at the crease, but in spite of a no ball leading to a free hit with two runs to get off three balls, USA could only manage one run off the incredible final sequence.
Chasing a target of 275, USA needed six runs off the final over and took singles off the first three deliveries bowled by teenage debutant allrounder Aadil Alam before a no ball off the fourth to Jariwala took the target to two off three balls. A single to mid-off put Jones on strike with scores level as Nepal captain Sandeep Lamichhane brought the entire field into the ring with the exception of Rohit Paudel stationed at deep midwicket. An attempted yorker from Alam wound up as a shin high full toss to Jones on his legs that was spooned off the toe of the bat and floated in the air long enough for Paudel to charge in and pull off a sensational diving catch to extend the match to the final ball.
Jariwala crossed with the ball in the air to take strike with Nisarg Patel entering at the non-striker’s end. A full delivery on the pads from Alam was flicked by Jariwala straight to Karan KC fielding well inside the ring at short fine leg and a gentle one-bounce relay to Dipendra Singh Airee charging in from mid-off to cover the stumps at the non-striker’s end was just in time to get the bails off to secure the 41st tie in men’s ODI history as a handful of Nepal fans stormed the pitch in jubilation while the rest of the heavily partisan Nepal fans numbering just under 1,000 at Moosa Stadium carried on with delirious celebrations.
The final ball wicket ended a madcap day in grueling Texas heat where the high reached 97F but the humidity produced a heat index of 107F. It also capped a marvelous death overs spell from the 18-year-old Alam who finished with 3 for 45 in nine overs, including the wicket of Steven Taylor in the 44th to end the American’s maiden ODI century at 114.
What should have been a historic day for Taylor and the rest of the USA squad after toiling for eight hours in extreme conditions will instead be remembered as an improbable collapse just before the finish line. Taylor’s third century in limited overs cricket for USA, and second against Nepal, looked certain to be marked down as one of the great occasions in USA’s limited overs record books. During the course of his knock, he passed former captain Steve Massiah to become USA’s all-time leading scorer in their one-day history as USA looked set to surpass their best ever successful chase, which came 11 years earlier hauling down a target of 257 against Hong Kong at WCL Division Three in 2011.
Following the fall of Sushant Modani in the sixth over for 17 courtesy of a brilliant one-handed return catch from Sompal Kami, Taylor and USA captain Monank Patel embarked on a 200-run partnership that made Nepal’s first innings total look well under par. Both players experienced a bit of luck along the way though, taking advantage of consistently sloppy fielding from Nepal early in the chase. Monank was dropped on 6 off a straightforward chance at backward point by Kushal Bhurtel during Lamichhane’s first over of the day in the 11th. Taylor survived a missed runout chance by Bhurtel three overs later on 25 before substitute fielder Sagar Dhakal spilled him over the long-on rope for six on 33 in the 18th over off the bowling of Airee.
Two overs later, Taylor brought up his half-century off 56 balls with a much cleaner straight six down the ground off Airee. But in another pivotal moment, one that seemed inconsequential at the time in the first over after the second drinks break taken after 24 overs, umpire Vijaya Mallela signaled Taylor one short on an attempted two just one ball before he launched Sushan Bhari’s left-arm spin for six over the leg side.
Monank then reached his second straight fifty-plus score of the tour in the 31st over off 76 balls with a single off Airee. It was around this time though that Taylor noticeably slowed down while struggling with back issues in the sweltering conditions, playing out a maiden to Airee in the 29th. He adjusted to tapping singles until a boundary in the 35th took him into the 90s. A single punched down the ground off Aarif Sheikh’s medium pace in the 38thover took him to three figures off 113 balls as he lifted his bat to point it to his father Silvan watching from the King Stand, but such was the exhaustion in the conditions that he didn’t attempt to take his helmet off and there was little more celebration in the moment.
Monank finally fell in the 42nd over for 85, playing back to a legbreak from Lamichhane that produced a toe edge juggled and held onto by Binod Bhandari behind the stumps, who had come onto the field in the 10thover after Aasif Sheikh suffered a leg injury attempting to block a delivery from Sompal Kami that skidded low. Taylor then fell for 114 in the 44th over trying to heave Alam over wide long-on but couldn’t clear Lamichhane at deep midwicket as Alam claimed his maiden ODI scalp.
At that stage though, USA were still firm favorites with just 38 runs needed off 37 balls with seven wickets in hand. But the first signs that USA might bungle the final stage appeared when Jones chewed up five dot balls to start his innings and should have been run out on his sixth on a throw from Lamichhane at midwicket in the ring. A slog sweep for six by Jones over midwicket off Airee in the 45th took the equation back under a run a ball as USA entered the final five overs needing 26 off 30 balls to win. But Gajanand Singh’s rash charge to a slower ball from Alam saw him bowled for four to make it 252 for 4 in the 46th.
Jariwala arrived and along with Jones, the pair needed 20 off the final 24 balls to get USA home. However, the pair could not get anything better than a single over the course of the final four overs. Even with two wides and a no ball assisting the team score across the final two overs, Alam bowled a total of five dot balls in his final two overs at the death as few risks were taken despite USA having six wickets in hand during that final stretch.
Aside from Alam’s remarkable death bowling spell that ended with 3 for 45 in a total of nine overs on the day, Lamichhane ended with 1 for 37 in 10 and Kami took 1 for 29 in five overs as Nepal’s wicket-takers on the day.
The collapse at the finish also meant the first innings efforts of USA’s pace bowlers to keep the target to a well below par total went to waste. Nepal looked assured of passing 300 after choosing to bat first at the toss following three half-centuries from their top four. But the trio of Rusty Theron, Ali Khan and Saurabh Netravalkar shared eight wickets to spark a collapse of 7 for 31 as Nepal wound up bowled out with four balls left unused.
Nepal started their innings with four consecutive half-century partnerships as Aasif Sheikh, Dev Khanal and Rohit Paudel all scored half-centuries. Nisarg Patel made the first breakthrough with his left-arm spin as Bhurtel was bowled for 19 missing an audacious reverse sweep. Aasif was then caught chipping a low catch off Yasir Mohammad’s legspin to sub fielder Cam Stevenson at short midwicket for 61. Dev Khanal top-edged a pull of Theron to be caught on the ring at midwicket for 54 before Alam’s brisk debut with the bat ended with 36 off 24 balls when he was trapped lbw in the 44th over to make it 243 for 4.
That wicket sparked the collapse of 7 for 31 as the pace bowlers continued to rip through the middle order and tail. Airee fell three balls later bowled by a yorker from Ali Khan for 1. Aarif fell in the next over, caught behind by Monank for 8 before Khan struck again in the 47th, inducing a drive from Paudel to Theron on the ring at mid-off for a top-score of 62.
Karan KC fell next, caught by Stevenson slogging to deep midwicket off Netravalkar for a third ball duck. Kami edged behind four balls later for 1 to give Netravalkar his second wicket. Lamichhane then fell for the last wicket for 10, heaving across the line against Theron and bowled for 10 to end the innings in 49.2 overs.
Theron ended with 4 for 56 in his 9.2 overs. Netravalkar took 2 for 32 in 10. Khan finished with 2 for 62 in 10. Mohammad claimed 1 for 42 in six while Nisarg took 1 for 48 in seven.
USA goes straight back into action on Sunday morning against Oman while Nepal has two days off before their next match against Oman on Tuesday.