Steven Taylor was once again at his bruising best, blitzing a 32-ball half-century on the way to 92 off 63 balls in a Player of the Match performance to lift USA to a six-wicket win over Nepal.
File image credit: Peter Della Penna
By Peter Della Penna (Twitter @PeterDellaPenna
For the second time on tour in Oman, Steven Taylor capitalized on a second life to notch a match-winning half-century as he converted a life given on 42 to blast his way to 92 off 63 balls as USA chased a target of 175 with 20.3 overs to spare to record a six-wicket win over Nepal at Al Amerat Cricket Ground in Muscat, Oman. The result snaps USA’s seven-match losing streak in Cricket World Cup League Two tournament play, with USA’s last win in the seven-team competition coming all the way back in December 2019 against UAE. During his Player of the Match performance, Taylor passed 2,000 career runs in 50-over cricket for USA, becoming just the second player to do so after former captain Steve Massiah.
An impressive USA bowling effort supported captain Saurabh Netravalkar’s decision to send Nepal in to bat first at the toss as 24-year-old fast bowler Kyle Phillip was finally given a long-awaited ODI debut and didn’t disappoint. Phillip took 3 for 43 as he regularly created awkward angles for Nepal’s batsmen with his height, bounce and extra pace which led to key wickets. Phillip struck with the new ball in the third over, inducing a skied leading edge from Aasif Sheikh’s attempted flick over midwicket as Karima Gore produced a wonderful effort running away from the ring at backward point to claim an over the shoulder catch, the first of three for him on the day.
Nepal captain Gyanendra Malla joined Kushal Bhurtel and together built a 51-run second-wicket stand as Nepal looked unflustered after Phillip left the attack at the end of his new-ball spell. Gore had a slice of luck go his way in the 12th
to break the stand as Bhurtel charged a ball that was speared into his pads well outside leg stump only to miss an attempted flick and have the ball carom gently off his pads before dribbling into the stumps to dismiss him for 36 off 43 balls.
Elmore Hutchinson then struck next three overs later as Gore conjured up an even more magnificent effort on the off side ring, flinging himself left to pull off a highlight reel one-handed stunner to remove Rohit Paudel for 2 at 63 for 3. USA’s fielding continued to shine in the air as Dominique Rikhi, who was on as a sub fielder, charged to his right at long-on to pull off another spectacular diving effort, intercepting a lofted drive from Binod Bhandari off the bowling of Nosthush Kenjige for 10 to make it 89 for 4 in the 24th
For the second time on the day, Nepal rallied back with a 51-run partnership behind Gyanendra and ODI debutant left-hander Gulshan Jha. The pair negotiated through some nervy moments against the left-right spin combo of Kenjige and Taylor over the course of the next hour as Jha produced four edges that went wide or short of slip fielders who were poorly positioned too deep or too wide of the wicketkeeper, including a straightforward chance when he had yet to score as Sanjay Krishnamurthi stood at an orthodox second slip rather than tight to the wicketkeeper Monank Patel only for an edge produced by Kenjige to split them.
Jha threw his wicket away to an ill-advised slog upon Netravalkar’s return to the attack, producing a simple chance at mid-on for Hutchinson to claim for 28. Kushal Malla’s wretched tour with the bat continued as his own rash heave three balls later produced another skier taken at backward point by Gore to make it 140 for 4. Nepal’s middle-order collapse of three wickets for four runs continued when Sompal Kami played a wildly irresponsible heave to Netravalkar in the 41st
, sending another skied catch to Hutchinson on the ring at mid-off. Karan KC made 12 before he became Netravalkar’s fourth victim as another skier was generated by an offcutter from the USA captain, sailing to Kenjige at deep cover for a safe catch.
Captain Gyanendra was left with almost six overs to survive with the tail, but fared little better than the rest of his lineup as he fell into a short ball trap from Phillip, pulling him to Kenjige at deep midwicket to be out for 55 off 104 balls. Sandeep Lamichhane fell to end the innings on the last ball of the 48th
over, slashing another easy skier to Nisarg Patel at deep third man.
In addition to Netravalkar and Phillip, Gore finished with 1 for 29 in eight overs with two maidens. Kenjige bowled an excellent spell to end with 1 for 20 in eight. Hutchinson took 1 for 13 in four overs. Nisarg (0 for 21 in four), Taylor (0 for 12 in five) and Krishnamurthi (0 for 1 in one) rounded out the rest of the attack for USA.
Taylor got the chase underway cracking a boundary driven over mid-off on the second ball bowled by Kami in an eight-run over to be immediately sent out of the attack. Jha was attacked early and often in his three-over new ball spell, starting with a six flicked off his hips over square leg in the second over.
But Nepal struck back in the fifth over as Sushant Modani was given out for 2 on a harsh lbw decision prodding forward to a googly from Lamichhane that appeared to be spinning in well past leg stump. Not for the first time on tour, USA team management made an unusual shuffle with the batting order, sending in Karima Gore at No. 3. The move flopped as Gore was bowled minutes later for a four-ball duck, charging and missing a googly from Lamichhane to make it 22 for 2.
Just as quickly as Lamichhane’s double-wicket maiden ended, Taylor was back attacking the other end, punching a six over mid-on followed by three more boundaries through the leg side in a 21-run over by Jha to finally hit him out of the attack while Monank settled in alongside Taylor. Left-arm spinner Sushan Bhari replaced Jha for the eighth and generated a chance on his third ball to Taylor. Eight away from a half-century, Taylor mistimed a drive off the toe and the ball floated to Bhurtel at long-on who let the ball burst through his hands before thudding into his chest and then onto the turf. A firm punch through mid-off in Bhari’s next over took Taylor to 49 before a single brought up a 32-ball fifty, just one delivery slower than his record-setting fastest ODI fifty a week earlier against Papua New Guinea as USA ended the Powerplay at 60 for 2.
Taylor then smashed Bhari out of the attack with a hat-trick of boundaries to end the 12th
. But Bhari’s replacement in the attack offered little respite as Bhurtel’s part-time legspin was pelted by Taylor over extra cover for four and long-off for six. A mistimed drive brought about his downfall off Karan KC’s medium pace, sending a catch to mid-off that ended his knock eight short of a maiden ODI century as well as ending a 97-run third-wicket partnership with Monank.
Krishnamurthi was promoted ahead of Malhotra and pushed hard away from his body at an outswinger on sixth stump, edging a catch to slip to put Karan on a hat-trick at 119 for 4. Malhotra came in and saw off the hat-trick ball but offered a chance soon after off Kami in the next over when he had yet to score, but a regulation chance at deep midwicket off a loose pull shot was grassed by Jha to cap a poor debut in the field.
Instead of being 120 for 5 with a chance for Nepal to burrow further into USA’s lower order, the pair of Malhotra and Monank made the most of the extra life to take USA across the line with an unbeaten 56-run stand. Malhotra cranked a pair of sixes off Karan over the leg side in the 24th
to rub salt into the wound, then slog swept Lamichhane over long-on in the 26th
for another as Monank remained content to take singles and put his power-hitting partner back on strike. Jaskaran ended the match by lofting Lamichhane over cover for four followed by a two edged over slip three balls into the 30th
over. Malhotra ended 36 not out off 32 balls while Monank finished unbeaten on 38 off 70.
Lamichhane ended with 2 for 34 in 8.3 overs but his impact was nullified in part by his inability to find a partnership bowler opposite him in order to maintain pressure as USA focused on seeing off his overs following his double-strike in the fifth rather than take any more risks against him. Karan finished with 2 for 23 in five overs. Kami (0 for 30 in six) and Bhari (0 for 30 in four) were unlucky to have a pair of crucial chances put down off their bowling while Jha (0 for 31 in three), Kushal Malla (0 for 12 in two) and Bhurtel (0 for 14 in one) posed no threat.
USA has two days off before returning to action on Monday, September 20 for their final match of the ODI tour against the hosts Oman. The start is once again scheduled for 2:30 pm local time, 6:30 am EST in the USA.