USA's first 50-over tournament in a decade ended with a last place finish in group play before the tournament was abandoned due to a fresh wave of travel restriction concerns over Covid-19.
By Peter Della Penna (Twitter @PeterDellaPenna
From the peak of a championship run in Mexico a month earlier at the 2021 ICC Americas Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier, the USA Women squad’s momentum went through a valley a month later at the ICC Women’s 50-over World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe as the youthful group lost all three group matches against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Thailand before their final match against Pakistan was canceled along with the rest of the tournament due to travel restrictions imposed by fears over the newly discovered Omicron variant strain of Covid-19.
The tour started off in see-saw fashion with USA splitting a pair of warm-up matches against the Netherlands before a lopsided defeat to Sri Lanka in the only official ICC warm-up match before the start of the event. Sri Lanka posted 326 for 5 batting first before USA was bowled out for 126 in reply. 17-year-old Lisa Ramjit scored more than half of USA’s runs, making 68 off 125 balls.
In USA’s first official match of the tournament, they were trounced by 270 runs at the hands of Bangladesh. Winning the toss and choosing to field first, USA conceded a total of 322 for 5 as opener Sharmin Akhter made an unbeaten 130 off 141 balls. Sharmin added 137 for the third wicket in tandem with Fargana Hoque, who scored 67 off 62 balls. Moksha Chaudhary took 2 for 64 in 10 overs for USA, whose bowling attack had to go without Uzma Iftikhar for the majority of the innings after she injured herself in the field. Iftikhar only bowled two overs and did not take any further part in the tournament. In reply, USA was bowled out for 52 in in 30.3 overs. Captain Sindhu Sriharsha (15 off 43 balls) and Tara Norris (16 off 27 balls) were the only two players to cross double figures.
USA came close in their next match to notching a win over Zimbabwe before ultimately falling short as the hosts escaped with a dramatic one-wicket win. Sent in to bat first, USA once again failed to complete their full batting allotment as they were bowled out for 131 in 44.5 overs. Sriharsha top-scored for USA, making 22 off 51 balls. From 77 for 3 in the 23rd
over, USA lost their last seven wickets for 54 runs. Norris provided a brief flurry in the lower order for USA, scoring 18 off 23 balls including half of USA’s six boundaries before she was out edging behind an attempted cut to eventual Player of the Match Loreen Tshuma, who took 3 for 19 in 10 overs of spin as well as contributed to the runout of Ramjit.
Zimbabwe’s opening combo of Modester Mupachikwa and Sharne Mayers got off to a blazing start in reply, adding 57 in just 9.2 overs. However, both benefitted from dropped chances. Mupachikwa was spilled on 7 at gully by Chaudhary off the bowling of Norris in the third over while Mayers was shelled on 2 by Geetika Kodali at mid-off in the sixth over off Chaudhary. The chances cost USA a total of 45 runs as Mupachikwa and Mayers made 22 and 32 respectively before they were dismissed by Norris and Kodali respectively.
Chaudhary then sparked a dramatic middle-order slide starting with the wicket of captain Mary-Anne Musonda as she took four wickets to see Zimbabwe go from 73 for 3 to 87 for 7. Akshatha Rao took a return catch for her second wicket of the day to dismiss Loryn Phiri making it 97 for 8 before Tara Norris returned to the attack to claim her second wicket, getting Precious Marange lbw for 18 to make it 115 for 9 in the 31st
over. However, USA was unable to create a chance against the last wicket pair of Nomvelo Sibanda and Francisca Chipare as Chipare smacked a boldly counterattacking 16 off 15 balls including the winning boundary to get Zimbabwe over the line with 16.3 overs to spare. Chaudhary ended with 4 for 46 in the loss in her 10 overs while Norris claimed 2 for 22 in 10 and Rao took 2 for 23 in seven with two maidens.
A clinical Thailand unit disposed of USA by nine wickets in the final match of the tournament on November 27. After choosing to bat first, USA were bowled out for 93 in 42.5 overs. Ramjit top-scored with 26 off 64 balls at No. 5 for USA. Shebani Bhaskar (13 off 13 balls) and Norris (10 off 33 balls) were the only other two to reach double-digits. Norris ended as USA’s leading scorer in the tournament with 44 runs in the three matches. Nattaya Boochatham took 4 for 16 with five maidens in an unbroken 10-over spell of spin with the new ball to claim Player of the Match honors. Nine of USA’s 10 wickets fell to spin on the day.
In reply, Thailand came within one shot of recording a 10-wicket victory as Sornarin Tippoch and Natthakan Chantham produced an 89-run opening stand that ended when Chantham chopped Rao onto her stumps on 48. Tippoch ended unbeaten on 28 while Boochatham came out to help Thailand knock off the remaining runs, finishing 2 not out. Rao ended with 1 for 26 as USA’s only wicket-taker on the day. Despite sitting out the final match, Chaudhary finished as USA's leading wicket-taker in the tournament with six at an average of 18.33. Norris ended as USA's most economical bowler with a 4.25 economy rate in 24 overs, also the most for USA.
USA Women’s next scheduled tournament activity is not until next year for the 2022 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Global Qualifier. Along with USA, the other participants will be Bangladesh, Thailand, Scotland, Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe, United Arab Emirates and Ireland.