In a roundup of day one action at the 2021 USA U19 National Championships, Mid-Atlantic defeated Colts in a thrilling chase thanks to a pair of fifties from Ishan Sharma and Rutwik Behera while South Zone and South West both romped to victory over West Zone Blues and Midwest respectively.
Picture credit: Peter Della Penna
By Peter Della Penna in Houston (Twitter @PeterDellaPenna
Middle-order batsmen Ishan Sharma and Rutwik Behera combined for a 124-run fifth wicket partnership to steer Mid-Atlantic Zone out of a hole from 101 for 4 to help their side to a four-wicket win over Colts chasing a target of 279 with 11 balls to spare on the opening day of the 2021 USA Cricket U-19 National Championships at Prairie View, Texas. The Maryland duo scored the last of five half-centuries on the day as three first innings fifties were not enough for Colts to defend what turned out to be a comfortably below par target. While Behera made 61, Sharma stayed to the end to see Mid-Atlantic home with a superb unbeaten 92 off 89 balls to put their side atop Group A.
While the match featured some outstanding batting by both sides, it was also marred at times by some sloppy fielding. Colts opener Rishi Shimpi kicked off the half-century parade by making 50 off 67 balls including a 61-run opening partnership with Varad Kulkarni. However, it could have been nipped in the bud had a straightforward slips chance been held when Shimpi was on 2 in the third over off the bowling of medium pacer Varun Mantha. Shimpi seized on the error with some quality straight driving to rack up seven boundaries before he was eventually run out from point by Suja Khan to make it 97 for 2.
Colts captain Slade van Staden teamed with Rishi Ramesh to add another 52 for the third wicket in a stand dominated by van Staden. After a methodical start, van Staden feasted on Mid-Atlantic’s spin bowling, seizing on any errors in length with a series of vicious pull shots over the leg side, ending with six fours and a six before he was bowled by Behera’s offspin for 55. Ramesh was busier at the crease in terms of rotating the strike in a 60-run fourth-wicket partnership with Arjun Vajjala. Ramesh struck just two fours and two sixes but still scored at nearly a run a ball to finish with 59 before he was dismissed upon Mantha’s return to the attack at the death.
Despite being 147 for 2 after 30 overs, Colts stumbled in the latter stages of their innings and could not capitalize on an excellent foundation as they eventually ended on 278 for 6. Mantha’s figures of 2 for 39 were the best on the day for Mid-Atlantic.
Mid-Atlantic made a solid start initially behind some elegant strokeplay from 2019 USA U19 representative Sai Mukkamalla, who struck four boundaries in his 22 off 21 balls. But he fell into a short ball trap from left-arm pacer Hisham Ali to be caught at deep fine leg. The quick introduction of spin into the attack caused further problems for Mid-Atlantic as Bay Area product Nihal Desai struck three times to leave the score at 101 for 4 after 24.
But Sharma and Behera showed impressive tactical acument to flip momentum back to Mid-Atlantic. Both batsmen were alert to using the extremely windy conditions to their advantage, launching two sixes each in addition to multiple lofted straight drives over the infield for boundaries. Like the first innings however, there was an opening in the field just after the second drinks break to disrupt their partnership but Behera was dropped on 27 on a difficult chance in the covers and several other near misses allowed both batsmen to carry on until Behera played around a straight delivery and was given lbw to Shimpi’s medium pace for 61 off 51 balls.
Sharma proceeded to add another 48 with captain Nitish Mahesh until a calamitous mixup resulted in Mahesh sacrificing himself for 19 off 23 balls when Mid Atlantic were one shot away from victory. Sharma secured victory four balls later to start the 49th
over, cutting Srinidhi Raghavendran through backward point for his ninth boundary to clinch the match. Desai ended with 3 for 40 in 10 overs to lead the Colts bowling side in a losing effort.
The remaining two matches on the opening day of play were lopsided affairs. In Group A, South Zone won by six wickets over West Zone Blues chasing down a target of 96 before lunch having bowled out their opposition in just 31.5 overs. Blues suffered a dramatic collapse against the left-right spin duo of Elton Tucker Jr. and South captain Danush Kaveripakam as seven wickets combined fell to the pair resulting in Blues losing their last eight wickets for 36 runs having been 59 for 2 in the 15th
over. Tucker Jr. finished with 4 for 25 in his 10 overs while Kaveripakam claimed 3 for 18 in 10.
Rohan Phadke made an aggressive 31 off 20 balls to kickstart the South chase and despite a few hiccups, South eased to victory in just 18.4 overs thanks to an unbeaten 26 from Abhiram Bolisetty.
Meanwhile in Group B, South West Zone poured on the highest total of the day against an overmatched Midwest Zone bowling unit, speeding to 348 for 7 in an eventual 228-run win. South West captain Ali Sheikh bulldozed his way to 59 off 44 balls before he was caught on the boundary off the bowling of Tejas Vishal. Undeterred by the early loss of wickets at 172 for 4 in 27 overs, Mihir Cherukupalli then added 99 for the fifth wicket with Hrrit Hinge. Wicketkeeper Cherukupalli made 53 off 59 balls before being runout in a mixup with Abhiram Valisammagari to make it 282 for 6 in the 44th
. But South West’s depth shone through Nos. 8 and 9 Abhimanyu Poswal and Josh Saripella smashed 57 off the final 35 balls to end unbeaten on 33 off 21 and 23 off 17 respectively. Vishal ended with Midwest’s best figures of 2 for 58 in 10.
Midwest’s reply went awry rapidly thanks to opening left-arm pacer Soorya Selvakumar, who reduced the batting order to rubble at 34 for 4 in the 12th
over on his way to finishing with 4 for 20 in 7.4 overs, not to mention a runout and a catch in the field. Poswal’s generously flighted legspin claimed 2 for 17 as Midwest abandoned their chase relatively early at 62 for 7 in the 19th
over and focused on trying to stretch out the game by batting time. They were eventually dismissed in the 38th
over for 120 when Selvakumar returned to wipe out the tail.
Day 2 of the tournament on Tuesday will see a battle of undefeated teams in Group A as South Zone takes on Mid Atlantic while the other contest of the day features the only two teams to sit out the opening day’s play as East Zone and West Zone Reds face off in Group B.