All four of USA's warm-up matches in South Africa ahead of the start of group play were impacted by rain, leaving the team short of match practice heading into their opening encounter of the tournament against Ireland.
File photo courtesy: Peter Della Penna
By Peter Della Penna (Twitter/X @PeterDellaPenna
USA U19’s rain-affected warm-up tour of South Africa in preparation for the 2024 ICC Men’s U19 World Cup has finally come to an end as the traveling American unit experienced three matches that wound up not reaching a conclusion while a fourth was curtailed to a 31-over contest against Zimbabwe in which USA fell short by 12 runs. USA arrived in the second week of January expecting to play two matches against North West University XI’s before their two official ICC warmup fixtures against Namibia and Zimbabwe. However, wet conditions have resulted in USA entering their opening match on Friday January 19 against Ireland without much match practice to go off of before Group A pool play gets underway.
USA was originally scheduled to play against North West University at Potchefstroom on January 9, but persistent rain resulted in a washout and a rescheduled game set to begin 24 hours later. However, the rain continued into the following day resulting in a full abandonment of the first match. The second match originally scheduled for January 11 also wound up being abandoned due to a wet outfield.
USA finally got to take the field on January 13 for their first official ICC warmup match against Namibia held in Pretoria. After losing the toss and being sent in to bat, USA posted a total of 268 for 7 spearheaded by 129 not out off 149 balls – including five fours and four sixes – by New Jersey top order batter Siddarth Kappa. The largest partnership of the innings was shared between Kappa and fellow Garden State batter Prannav Chettipalayam (55 off 65 balls, three fours), as they added 94 for the second wicket following the fall of Bhavya Mehta at the end of the first over with the score on 17.
USA U19 captain Rishi Ramesh and vice-captain Utkarsh Srivastava were the only other members of the top eight to reach double-digits as both made 23 to boost USA. Khush Bhalala added 11 not out as part of an unbroken 37-run stand alongside Kappa to end the USA innings. Zacheo van Vuuren, son of former Namibia 2003 World Cup squad member Rudi van Vuuren, finished with Namibia’s best figures taking 3 for 50 in seven overs.
In reply, Namibia reached 78 for 1 in 12.5 overs before rain stopped play for the day, culminating in a no result. Gerhard Janse van Rensburg top-scored for Namibia with 39 not out off 36 balls including three fours and one six. Rayaan Bhagani was the lone wicket-taker for USA, coming on at first change and ending with 1 for 14 in two overs.
USA’s final warmup contest in Pretoria took place on January 16 against Zimbabwe. After choosing to field first following a delay that lasted more than three hours, USA restricted Zimbabwe to 136 for 9 in the 31-over contest. Left-arm medium pacer Arya Garg led the way for USA taking 3 for 11 in five over with two maidens. Right arm medium pacer Aaryan Batra took 2 for 29 in five overs while fellow pacer Aarin Nadkarni took 1 for 20 in four overs. The spin trio of Ramesh (1 for 30 in six), Srivastava (1 for 2 in one) and Parth Patel (1 for 36 in seven) all took one wicket apiece to round out USA in the field. Zimbabwe captain Matthew Schonken was one of six players to scratch their way into double figures but nobody could better his 29 off 34 balls.
Batting conditions remained difficult in the chase as Aryaman Suri top-scored for USA with 32 off 41 balls, including one four and one six, to start the chase. USA had a pair of 34-run partnerships, the first by Suri and Chettipalayam (16 off 26 balls, two fours) for the opening wicket and then later by Amogh Arepally (18 off 36 balls, one four) and Kappa (22 off 19 balls, one four and one six) for the eighth wicket. But USA never really recovered from a middle order slide in which they lost four wickets for just one run to slide from 60 for 1 to 61 for 5. Anesu Kamuriwo triggered the collapse and ended with 3 for 27 while Ryan Simbi followed up to help wipe out the tail with 3 for 16 as USA were eventually bowled out for 124 off the first ball of the final over.
USA’s first match of Group A against Ireland on Friday January 19 will be shown live on Willow TV in the USA on the Willow Xtra channel beginning at 3 am on the east coast, midnight on the west coast. Willow will also have broadcast coverage of USA’s other two fixtures in Group A against Bangladesh on Friday January 26 as well as the finale against India on Sunday January 28.