Less than a month after the USA men’s team claimed ODI status at WCL2 in Namibia, the women provided more good news for cricket in America as they progressed to the next round of the ICC’s 20-over and 50-over qualification pathways. Facing off against the old enemy Canada, in what was both teams’ official WT20I debut, the USA proved too strong and swept the 3-match T20 series in Fort Lauderhill 3-0, winning by sizeable margins in each match.
The first match saw USA skipper Sindhu Sriharsha win the toss and elect to bowl first. She was vindicated by a stifling team performance with the ball, as Canada struggled diabolically to 66/6 off their full quota of overs. 14-year-old Lisa Ramjit did her junior club in Maryland proud, recording a miserly 2/5 in 4 overs of right-arm medium. Fellow opener Claudine Beckford picked up 1/9 off her 4, and of the other bowlers, only Samantha Ramautar (1/16 off 3) conceded more than 4 runs per over.
Bat in hand, the veteran Erica Rendler proved there were at least no demons in the pitch as she breezed to 47* off 35 deliveries, cracking 9 boundaries along the way. Her opening colleague Sugetha Chandhrasekar provided steady support, feeding Rendler the strike with 15* off 25 deliveries as the Americans romped home in exactly 10 overs without losing a wicket.
The second game also featured a decision to bowl first, this time by Canadian captain Mahewish Khan. The former Pakistan Test player led from the front, opening the bowling with her right-arm pace and ripping out two middle-order wickets on the way to 2/11 off her 4 overs. With the dangerous Rendler pinned LBW by Saniyah Zia’s medium pace, it fell to Chandhrasekar and skipper Sriharsha to build the innings. Chandhrasekar was again cautious, hitting just 2 boundaries in her 32 (49), but Sriharsha picked up the pace with 38 (30), including 6 fours. The pair added 68 runs before a mix-up saw Chandhrasekar run out with the score on 83 in the 15th over. Sriharsha fell victim to another runout soon after the team passed 100, and Khan brought herself back on to choke any recovery. Canada were successful in keeping the total down, as the USA limped to 113/6 off their 20 overs, and looked upbeat going into the break.
In response, though, Canada again struggled to get the American bowlers away, with Beckford recording the scarcely-believable figures of 3-2-1-2. Her wickets were both LBW, but Canada’s running between wickets crippled their chase – losing 4 batters to runouts, they repeatedly self-destructed any attempts to build partnerships. Offspinner Uzma Iftikhar also ran riot, scalping four of the visitors on her way to 4/19. Chuntell Martin provided the only resistance of note, thwacking a pair of boundaries in her 20 (17) as Canada collapsed to 76, handing the home side victory by 37 runs, and qualification to the 2019 Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier and the 2020 Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier.
With qualification sewn up, the final match of the series was something of a victory lap for the USA. Sindu Sriharsha called correctly, and this time decided to bat. The Americans lost wickets at a steady pace, with both openers falling cheaply, while Shebani Bhaskar zipped along to 30 (19). However, at 41/4 in the 7th over, Saniya Zia (3/22 off 4) had them in trouble and it fell to Sriharsha once more to rebuild the innings. She provided the impetus with 42* off 33 (including the first 6 of the series), and again was supported by a circumspect partner – this time Onika Wallerson (23 off 44). Sriharsha’s innings took her to 80 runs and the top of the batting charts for the series. Her collaboration with Wallerson added 65 for the 5th wicket as the USA lifted themselves to the highest total of the series, ending their 20 overs on 116/6.
Canada’s batting was exposed once more, as Lisa Ramjit was again amongst the wickets, claiming 3/11 from her 4 overs. Ramjit ended her impressive series with 5 scalps at an average of 6 and the remarkable economy rate of 2.72 to top the wicket tally. None of the Canadians passed 15, meanwhile, as they looked to bat time without ever really challenging the total; they finished a disappointing innings on 81/6 to give the USA a 35-run win. While there was only one runout, 4 batters dismissed bowled highlighted another subpar technical effort and left the Maple Leaf coaching staff with a lot to rectify in the future.
The USA are the fourth side (out of five) to pass through their double qualifier, with Europe the only regional group left to be contested. And while the USA women’s team has historically been a low priority for the administrators, with the new board and the ICC’s push to grow the women’s game, the American ladies may be set to join their male colleagues in moving up the international ladder.
Scores in brief:
Game 1: Canada 66/6 off 20.0 overs (Mirchandani 24, Ramjit 2/5) lost to USA 67/0 off 10.0 overs (Rendler 47*) by 10 wickets with 60 balls remaining.
Game 2: USA 113/6 off 20.0 overs (Sriharsha 38, Khan 2/11) defeated Canada 76 off 18.2 overs (Martin 20, Iftikar 4/19) by 37 runs.
Game 3: USA 116/6 off 20.0 overs (Sriharsha 42*, Zia 3/22) defeated Canada 81/6 off 20.0 overs (Zia 15*, Ramjit 3/11) by 35 runs.
Images courtesy of ICC.