A ferocious assault from Nitish Kumar propelled Canada to victory in their first match of the qualifiers, with a valiant riposte from Jonty Jenner not enough as Jersey collapsed to the Canadian seam attack. Coming into the tournament in red-hot form, the 53-run victory underlined Canada’s credentials and will give the Channel Islanders pause for thought after yesterday’s clinical win over unfancied Nigeria.
Having won the toss and inserted Canada on a sweltering Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi, Jersey skipper Charles Perchard needed his bowlers to back him up. And while they managed to keep the usually aggressive Rodrigo Thomas quiet, Perchard’s opposite number Navneet Dhaliwal hummed along fluently for 36 (26). Picking up regular boundaries and thumping a maximum off Dominic Blampied’s legspin, Dhaliwal looked dangerous before both openers fell within 3 deliveries – seamer Julius Sumerauer castling the laboured Thomas for 13 (22) and legspinning allrounder Ben Ward getting Dhaliwal caught by Greenwood.
This brought Nitish Kumar, arguably Canada’s classiest batsman, to the crease. Kumar set himself for liftoff, getting his eye in for a couple of overs but never worried about the run rate, which at its lowest ebb had dropped to 5.7 with Canada 63/2 after 11 (Kumar himself on 8 off 9).
Once he did launch, though, it was carnage. An exquisite timer of the ball, Kumar displayed the same form that saw him plunder 129 (84) against Qatar at the recent Challenge League in Malaysia as he savaged 75 off his next 26 deliveries to power the North Americans to an imposing total. Tucking into spinners and trundling medium pace alike, Kumar mauled 6 sixes and 4 fours, sending every bowler to the rope except for Perchard. The only bowler to keep his discipline, “Chuggy” led the way with the ball as he finished 2/21 off his 4 overs. That included the wicket of Kumar who was finally removed in the 19th over off a wide thanks to some brilliant work behind the stumps by keeper Jake Dunford. By then, though, the damage was done.
Where Canada’s opening stand was cautious, Jersey’s start was disastrous. Returning right-arm seamer Jeremy Gordon dislodged Nick Ferraby second ball of the innings, with a catch to Thomas, before Dilon Heyliger showed the full range of his inconsistency as he sprayed 5 wides before muscling the next ball past the bat of Ben Stevens to send the bails flying. Jersey were reeling at 14/2 after two overs.
It didn’t take long for one-man-band Jonty Jenner to counterattack though, slapping Gordon to the rope, then launching Zafar well over it in consecutive overs, but his efforts were going down with the ship as partners came and went. Two more sixes against the offspin duo of Kumar and Nikhil Dutta kept Jersey in touch with the asking rate, but when Zafar foxed Ben Ward with one that disturbed his stumps (the ball after being dispatched for a maximum), they started to slide under. Jenner was finally dismissed for 56 (32) by Dhaliwal, with the man of the hour Nitish Kumar completing the catch, before Heyliger and Gordon returned to clean up the tail. A chaotic final over saw three wickets fall, including the match-ending runout from Dhaliwal to cap a thoroughly useful allround contribution from the skipper.
While Canada will be happy to get off to a winning start, the more important thing is that they are carrying forward the momentum they’ve built up over the last few months. Thomas’ patchy form at the top of the order remains a concern, while they may look at rotating bowlers based on conditions – but the fact there is competition for places (with crafty seamer Romesh Eranga sitting on the sidelines) shows they possess depth in both pace and spin. Their clash against Nigeria tomorrow night certainly provides the opportunity to experiment with alternative combinations – though there is something to be said for continuity. Jersey meanwhile can hold onto the batting of Jenner and bowling of Perchard as positives, the strong Canadian side has provided them with something of a reality check after an easy win to start their campaign. With a resurgent UAE their next assignment on Tuesday, Jersey will need to shore up their fragile batting order and work on varieties with the ball.