Three in three, and USA’s campaign in League 2 is blemish-free. What we know for sure is the fact that they’re topping the table in this round. Of course, there’s still one more game to go, and it’s time to round off the campaign with emphasis.
Last game, the Americans successfully defended 177 against Papua New Guinea. The score was below par, but a barnstorming bowling effort brought about a fast capitulation during PNG’s chase. Following this win, USA are now leading the overall league table with six points and a net run rate of more than +1. After getting ODI status, they haven’t done much wrong in the format.
Karima Gore has been nothing short of stellar – 9 wickets in 3 games, and an overall economy rate of 2.50. In addition, the 21-year-old played a couple of brief but impactful cameos with the bat, thus making him the find of the summer. Spin has dominated the series, with the other spin bowling choices – Timil Patel, Nisarg Patel, and Steven Taylor sharing 13 wickets between them.
The final game is against Namibia – whom the hosts shellacked in the previous encounter. Having been bowled out for 121, the primary focus for Namibia undoubtedly has to be the batting. Karl Birkenstock showed plenty of character, and Zane Green demonstrated his fighting spirit, as well. However, more was expected from the experienced contenders in opener Stephan Baard, all-rounder Craig Williams, and skipper Gerhard Erasmus.
Namibia’s spin attack is definitely capable – they may have lost but left-arm spinner Zhivago Groenewald impressed with his ability to frequently flight the ball as well as exploit the assistance in the pitch. Bernard Scholtz was off color, but his 11 years of international experience can very much come in handy. For Namibia there’s plenty of time to turn things around with three games left to play.
Players to watch
Nisarg Patel has gained plenty of ground as the customary partnership breaker. With Karima Gore in the limelight, one may think that Patel is relatively underrated, which is a fair assumption. An all-rounder by trade, in addition to his left-arm spin, Patel is a solid middle-order batsman. He made a comeback to Team USA after almost a year and a half when he featured in the recently completed T20 World Cup Regional Qualifiers. The goal is now to ensure that he’s cemented his spot in the team for future League 2 rounds, and he’s definitely within striking distance.
As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining; one of the silver linings from last game was opening batsman Karl Birkenstock. The 23-year-old southpaw is a relative newcomer, and his international foray so far has been nothing short of promising. Not a big hitter, Birkenstock is an unflappable customer who doesn’t mind biding his time early on. On his ODI debut, he scored a patient 61 against Oman earlier this year, in the Division 2 final. It’s still early but his skills as a big-match player are becoming apparent. A lapse in patience after a stoic vigil may have done him in last time, but he’s shown adaptability to tricky surfaces. A challenging game ahead presents yet another shot to create a bigger impact.
Likely playing XIs
In all three games, there has been one prevalent issue – the top order. Now that they’re confirmed as table toppers, there might be some incentive to experiment. Jaskaran Malhotra has had three poor outings, so there might be a temptation to hand the gloves to Monank Patel, who is also an able wicketkeeper. Sagar Patel is another opening batsman in the squad, and he’s been gameless so far. This may not be very likely, but Sagar could step in for the final game, at the expense of either opener. Either that, or Monank Patel could be moved up to opening, and Sagar Patel can either come at first drop or No. 4.
Jessy Singh has bowled reliably well in the brief spells he’s received, so he probably will be backed for the final match.
1 Sagar Patel / Jaskaran Malhotra (wk), 2 Xavier Marshall, 3 Steven Taylor, 4 Monank Patel (wk), 5 Aaron Jones, 6 Nisarg Patel, 7 Timil Patel, 8 Elmore Hutchinson, 9 Karima Gore, 10 Jessy Singh, 11 Saurabh Netravalkar (c)
Despite a poor performance, it would be prudent to give everyone another go in the hopes of a reinvigorated comeback, especially after the 3-day break. The only reserve batting choice in the squad is all-rounder Pikky Ya France, but it’s unlikely he’ll slot in at the expense of any of the more experienced batsmen that participated in the last game.
1 Stephan Baard, 2 Karl Birkenstock, 3 JP Kotze, 4 Gerhard Erasmus (c), 5 Craig Williams, 6 Christi Viljoen, 7 JJ Smit, 8 Zane Green (wk), 9 Jan Frylinck, 10 Zhivago Groenewald, 11 Bernard Scholtz
Weather & conditions
It’s another humid day out in Lauderhill, with a 50% likelihood of rain. There may be a chance of intermittent showers, but it should be overcast for most of the day. Regardless, it’s safe to say there won’t be a washout, but there could be a shortened game.
USA may be a little fatigued after back-to-back games, and even with the momentum factor, this is an endurance test in itself. Adequate rest matters the most, especially when the games are held in consecutive days.
Heading into this round, Namibia came in with their heads held high, but now it’s all about survival. It’s the first time they’re playing official ODIs here, and a smooth start wasn’t guaranteed. Expect a more cautious and composed approach from the visitors. Will we see the clean run continue for the hosts, or will there be a twist in the fairy tale? A crucial bout for both sides lies ahead.