USA 177 (Monank Patel 66, Elmore Hutchinson 28, Jason Kila 3-27) defeated PNG 115 (Assad Vala 38, Tony Ura 19, Karima Gore 4-20) by 62 runs

USA’s unbeaten run at home continues, with a convincing victory over Papua New Guinea. At the change of innings, it appeared that it could potentially end up a close contest, but yet another match-winning display from Karima Gore ensured the hosts’ record remains intact. The 21-year-old ripped through the PNG middle order to script a great comeback in this low-scoring affair.

The hosts’ innings was a tale of two halves – an early collapse followed by a spirited effort to save face. USA’s start to their innings took an early dent when Jaskaran Malhotra tentatively poked at a length ball outside off from Norman Vanua, offering an easy catch to Gaudi Toka at slip.

Karima Gore speaks with Peter Della Penna of ESPN Cricinfo

A strong opening spell from the PNG pacers ensured that Xavier Marshall and Steven Taylor had to work harder for their runs. Tight lines from Vanua and Nosaina Pokana created pressure, and Taylor’s attempted hoick down the ground produced a leading-edge, spooning one to Toka at mid-off.

The very next over, right-arm pacer Chad Soper was given the ball – Marshall clubbed the second ball over mid-off for four, but an inswinger next delivery trapped him plumb in front. At 39 for 3, the platform was set for the middle order to successfully rebuild the innings.

However, once again, the introduction of spin from both ends – left-arm spinner Jason Kila and legspinner Charles Amini, made sure the runs dried up. Spin has been the key in all games, and after six rather sedate overs, Kila produced yet another breakthrough. After a defensive start, the man in form – Aaron Jones, nicked a drive to the slip fielder, skipper Assad Vala.

Jason Kila celebrates after dismissing Nisarg Patel LBW (ICC/Peter Della Penna)

The slowness of the surface made adaptability difficult – Nisarg Patel became Kila’s second victim in short time. Patel went back to an arm ball that was quicker through the air, snaring him in front of middle stump.

Amid the chaos, Monank Patel, batting four for the USA, stood firm. He and Karima Gore (16 from 34 balls) added 36 runs together, a partnership that briefly resurrected the innings. Part-time leggie Lega Siaka’s double-strike, though, made sure the US remained on the back foot.

It seemed like 150 was a fair distance away, especially at 100 for 7. Fortunately, for the hosts, Elmore Hutchinson (28 from 24) struck a few lusty blows and provided ample support for Patel. The 48-run stand could’ve been more, but Hutchinson’s attacking instinct got the better of him – going for one big hit too many, lofting a simple catch to long-off.

Monank Patel dives during his match-high innings of 66 (ICC/Peter Della Penna)

Patel reached his half-century and finished as the top scorer with 66 from 99 deliveries – it was an uncharacteristically slow innings from the usually quick-scoring batsman, but he did well to assess the situation at hand and play accordingly. USA folded for 177 with 11 balls to spare. Considering the mid-innings position, it was some respite, and potentially a competitive score.

Kila was the pick of the bowlers, taking 3 for 27 and impressing with his variations. Pokana bagged three wickets, as well. It was a remarkable collective effort from the Barramundis.

There was a rain interruption for about 45 minutes, but luckily that didn’t cost any overs in the second innings. 9 balls later, the rain made another brief cameo, but it was all clear after that.

Jessy Singh (l) and Saurabh Netravalkar run for cover as the rain comes down at the beginning of the PNG innings (ICC/Peter Della Penna)

The chase got off to an encouraging start, with Tony Ura counterattacking Jessy Singh with an early maximum. The quest for quick runs, however, was his undoing. He unsuccessfully heaved a fuller delivery off Steven Taylor off the inside edge, offering an easy grab for Timil Patel at short midwicket.

Toka and Siaka both couldn’t accelerate and fell for 6 and 4, respectively. Netravalkar was rewarded for his swing, and leggie Timil Patel struck on his very first delivery. It was down to the captain, Assad Vala. Despite the nervous start, Vala frequently connected with his sweeps, keeping the USA spinners under control. Kiplin Doriga was an able companion with his defence, while Vala backed himself to do the bulk of the scoring.

Vala continued briskly but was trapped LBW off left-arm spinner Nisarg Patel, missing a flick off a wicket-to-wicket delivery. At 88 for 4, it surely seemed like the game was in the balance – whenever PNG made some progress, a wicket kept them in check. The surface was generating more and more turn.

Skipper Assad Vala top scored for PNG with 38 (ICC/Peter Della Penna)

It was even-stevens until two overs later. Karima Gore, the star left-arm spinner for the US, produced what was the standout highlight in today’s game – a triple-wicket maiden. Charles Amini missed a paddle-sweep and was bowled around his legs. Three balls later, Hiri Hiri looked to play a square cut off a fuller delivery against the turn; the ball spun inward and crashed into the top of off stump. And on the final delivery, Jason Kila played all around a slider, and it was as plumb as it could get.

The Barrmamundis hopes to register their first victory of the series took a severe blow after the triple strike, and Doriga, the last recognised batsman, was out two overs later. With dot ball pressure mounting, Doriga came haring down the wicket; Nisarg Patel aptly dropped it short and wide – Doriga missed, and wicketkeeper Malhotra completed an easy stumping.

Gore would take his fourth wicket, Norman Vanua, another two overs later. Gore’s figures were exemplary – 4 wickets and 20 runs in his full 10 overs, his personal best to date. The final pair of Nosaina Pokana and Chad Soper resisted for a good six overs, but that delayed the inevitable. Taylor took the last wicket, bowling Pokana through the gate, and sealing a 62-run win.

Steven Taylor pleads for an LBW (ICC/Peter Della Penna)

It was a chance for PNG to prove their mettle, but now they have suffered their sixth consecutive loss in League 2. There are two more ODIs left for them – both against Namibia, who also struggled against the USA in the previous game.

Team USA will definitely be brimming with more confidence. Since the beginning of the competition, they have gone from strength to strength – adjustment to circumstances as well as dictating play with their wide range of spin-bowling choices.

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