USA overwhelmed by an assault on the senses, on and off the field, in nine-wicket loss to West Indies in Barbados

2024 Jun 22 by DreamCricket USA

In case the Kensington Oval atmosphere wasn't enough to be overawed by, USA were overmatched on the field in a merciless West Indies display as Shai Hope and Nicholas Pooran unleashed their wrath in pursuit of a third Men's T20 World Cup title. 

Photo credit: Peter Della Penna

By Peter Della Penna in Bridgetown, Barbados (Twitter/X @PeterDellaPenna)
It hits you from the moment you get off the plane. It’s not just the signs, literally on the tarmac at Grantley Adams International Airport, welcoming you to the T20 World Cup in Barbados. It’s everything that pays tribute to the heroes of the past as well as the festival of the present.
Before you can get inside the customs and immigration area, there are life size cutouts of Garry Sobers, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner and Gordon Greenidge. Of course, there is plenty of Rihanna too. Correction, “The Right Excellent” Robyn Rihanna Fenty, as her monument states in National Heroes Square in Bridgetown as yachts salute while passing by through the Careenage. But as for the cricket, heck, they’ve even got tributes at the airport for Tino Best and Sulieman Benn. The baggage claim porters all wear shirts that advertise for the T20 World Cup. From the terminal road all the way to Broad Street, T20 World Cup banners flutter in the wind. 
On the taxi driver’s radio, Station 92.90, there’s a song playing, “Sammy, Hetmyer….” The cricket names keep rattling off. Who is singing this song and what’s the title? “Oh, I didn’t even notice. It’s just a calypso,” says Daniel Jones, the taxi man and not the New York Giants starting quarterback. 
In case you couldn’t tell by the other advertisements showcasing a woman lounging in a resort pool wearing a bikini and cricket pads on her legs, or the guy in the canoe using a cricket bat as an oar, the sport is a way of life in Barbados. In fact, the island’s “Cricket Plus” advertising campaign has to work hard to showcase all the other things the island has to offer besides the sport that everyone has come to see during the month of June for the ongoing T20 World Cup. 
The whole vibe continues all day long. Everywhere you drive, there seems to be another sign or monument erected to honor “The Right Excellent” Sir Garfield St. Auburn Sobers. Even a blind man could get an easy sense of how big cricket is on the island. Because on the approach to Kensington Oval ahead of USA’s second Super 8 contest against West Indies on Friday night, the cacophony of noise is inescapable: street vendors hawking team flags, hats and jerseys; fans blowing horns just for the sake of it; musicians thump away more calypso beats on steel pan drums as two male dancers strut their stuff on a stage while a green carnival bikini clad woman does the limbo just in front of them. After she clears the bar, she grabs two gawking men standing nearby to challenge them to do the same as the rest of the onlooking crowd whoops and hollers. 
All of that was swamping USA’s squad before they even stepped onto the field to take part in warm-ups before the toss. It’s hard to describe it as intimidating. After all, just about every Bajan you come across on the island couldn’t be more warm – just like the local sea air – and friendly. But it’s definitely overwhelming in a way that just doesn’t exist in the American cricket ecosystem. Far more than the sea of India blue that USA played in front of in New York, where many of the fans were waving Stars & Stripes flags above the India jerseys they had worn into the ground, the crowd was much more authentically one-sided in favor of the West Indies. 
That’s not to say that there wasn’t support for USA at Kensington Oval on Friday night. There were no less than a dozen American flags waving proudly in the stands, incredible to see at an away match in the islands when it was hard to get a dozen live humans – at least ones not named PJ Goedhals and Phil Mielke, the original American superfans – to come out and support USA in person prior to the T20 World Cup and USA’s magical run to the Super 8s. 
But make no mistake, this was the type of environment that USA has not experienced all tournament while traveling around from venue to venue during the group stage in Texas, New York and Florida. After losing the toss and being asked to bat first, USA did remarkably well to keep the crowd out of the match during the Powerplay. Despite going into the match as heavy underdogs, ESPNcricinfo’s win predictor attached a 51.11% calculation in USA’s favor with the score at 48 for 1 after six overs. It was the first time that USA had been statistical algorithmic favorites at any stage of a match since the bulk of their tied chase against Pakistan. 
Andries Gous had just carted Alzarri Joseph for a four and a six over the leg side during a 16-run over that took him past Nicholas Pooran into pole position as the T20 World Cup’s leading scorer. Whether by mathematical calculations or the eye-test unfolding in front of a sellout crowd at Kensington Oval, a crowd that went from rowdy and raucous after Steven Taylor’s dismissal for 2 in the second over to mildly confused and concerned after Gous’ bat began heating up, USA once again looked like they were evenly matched against a Full Member opponent. 
And then just as suddenly, they weren’t. USA had managed to safely negotiate Akeal Hosein’s three overs of left-arm spin in the Powerplay. They may have only scored 13 runs off him, but at least they didn’t lose any wickets. The same couldn’t be said once Gudakesh Motie entered the fray in the seventh over. Facing him for the first time, Nitish Kumar tried to reverse sweep and missed, out lbw for 20. Aaron Jones couldn’t score off the next three balls to end the over, then looked grateful to have pace on the ball in the following over when he smoked Joseph for a 100-meter six over wide long-on that landed on the roof of Kensington Oval. But by the end of the over, Joseph struck back to get Gous heaving a catch to deep midwicket for 29. 
Before you knew it, the West Indies spinners had USA in a chokehold. Throughout the tournament, USA fans have become accustomed to seeing the batting lineup spring back to life in these situations, almost as if a WWE referee raises the arm to let it drop to the mat twice before the third attempt resulting in a possible count-out never gets to that stage because the combatant gets off the mat and rallies the crowd behind him to wrestle free and battle back. But that didn’t happen on Friday night.
Eventual Player of the Match Roston Chase bowled Aaron Jones, the USA stand-in captain and not the Minnesota Vikings running back, for 11 missing a sweep in the 10th. In the 14th, he trapped Corey Anderson for 7 off 15 balls playing back to a quicker ball before inducing a leading edge to backward point on Harmeet Singh’s first ball at the crease to make it 88 for 6. 
Only a late bit of spirited tail-wagging from Shadley van Schalkwyk and Ali Khan brought some respectability back to the innings. But when it was all said and done, USA only managed to score 80 for 9 wickets in the final 14 overs after the Powerplay. The disparity between pace and spin across the innings was just as jarring. USA scored 46 off 10 overs and lost four wickets to the West Indies spin trio of Chase, Hosein and Motie. They could only score three boundaries while racking up 26 dot balls out of a possible 60 deliveries against the same. 
USA’s habitual problems against spin at Associate level were suddenly magnified exponentially under the microscope of a Full Member bowling unit on a World Cup stage. It’s a problem that has been exacerbated by the absence of captain Monank Patel, who has been sitting out ever since his Player of the Match performance against Pakistan. 
In the most American cricket, nay the most American sports circumstance possible, word emerged hours before play on Friday that the reason Monank has been out of action is because he injured himself by falling on his right shoulder and suffering damage to his rotator cuff as well as a possible hairline fracture during an overexuberant celebratory demonstration on the team bus while leaving Grand Prairie Stadium after the win over Pakistan. There is a comical element to it all, with no shortage of comparisons to other instances of memorable misfortune in the American mainstream sports landscape. 
Former Arizona Cardinals kicker Bill Gramatica, who once suffered a season-ending torn ACL against the New York Giants while celebrating after making a 42-yard field goal in 2001. More recently, New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz suffered a torn right patellar tendon while celebrating on field with his teammates after a win for Puerto Rico in March 2023 during the World Baseball Classic and wound up missing the entire 2023 season for the Mets. But the Monank situation didn’t seem quite as funny while watching his teammates struggle against West Indies spinners at Kensington Oval. 
For anyone who might still have thought that West Indies weren’t totally ruthless in the field, they left no doubt in the chase. Entering the contest, West Indies and USA were ranked one and two in terms of most sixes hit in the tournament. USA’s lineup might have stumbled in that regard, but West Indies certainly didn’t. There were more than a few bruised hands and dented seats in the Greenidge & Haynes Stand by the end of the night as Shai Hope bullied USA’s bowling unit for eight sixes in his 82 not out off 39 balls. 
With the exception of Harmeet Singh, who went for a comparatively modest 18 off two overs and took the wicket of Johnson Charles well caught by Milind Kumar just inside the rope at deep midwicket for 15, nobody was spared. A 67-run opening partnership spanning seven overs was followed by an unbeaten 63-run stand lasted just 23 deliveries. In case Hope’s strike rate of 210.25 wasn’t destructive enough, Pooran made sure to show who’s boss to reclaim the tournament runs lead from Gous by smashing three sixes during his 27 not out off 12 balls. If the carnage during the first 10 overs wasn’t enough, Pooran and Hope put an exclamation point on the night in the 11th over by taking USA’s folk hero Saurabh Netravalkar down a peg or two, hitting him for three sixes in the space of four balls including Hope’s game-clincher over wide long-off. 
After playing some brilliant tournament cricket, USA might have been due for a stinker. The match ended as the clock was approaching midnight local time in Barbados, and USA’s Cinderella story in this T20 World Cup appears almost certain to be over barring an unlikely series of results and calculations that stretch well beyond them simply beating England on Sunday. Still, Hope was graciously complimentary of what USA has achieved so far. 
“Plain and simple, you can’t get to the Super 8 stage without playing good cricket,” Hope said in the post-match press conference. “This is supposed to be the best eight teams in the tournament at this stage so they showed why they deserve to be here and I must say they played some really good cricket up to this stage. I must commend them for their journey so far.”
It will be less than a 36-hour turnaround for USA when they take on England on Sunday morning. The defending champs against the team few if anyone expected to be here, certainly not all the Pakistan fans in the Kensington Oval crowd who couldn’t get a refund on their pre-booked trips to Barbados and showed up anyway. 
USA is playing with house money by just being in Bridgetown. But the performances of Steven Taylor and Corey Anderson against West Indies, two hard-hitters who are bizarrely striking at less than a run a ball in this tournament before recording scores of 2 off 7 and 7 off 15 respectively on Friday night, made it look like they’re content to let their chip stack bleed out slowly back to the dealer rather than trying to ante up and go for glory. 
USA as a team won’t be back in this tournament for another two years. Some of these players won’t ever be back again. With one match to go, it’s up to Taylor, Anderson and everyone else in the squad to push their chips to the center of the table on Sunday morning and go all in with no regrets before getting on the plane ride home. On an island that produced so many West Indies legends, USA has one more chance to carve out their own legendary piece of cricket history.