Harmeet Singh leads USA in series clincher over Canada

Seattle's Harmeet Singh poses with Paxton Elrod as he's introduced as the top pick in the inaugural MLC Draft

After convincing wins in the first two games, and Wednesday’s third T20i canceled due to a wet outfield, USA took the field on Friday with a chance to eliminate the possibility of a series tie with Canada in what was originally a five game series.

All eyes would be on Corey Anderson, as the former New Zealand world record holder for fastest ODI innings would be making his debut for USA, in for Andries Gous who is nursing a leg injury. For Canada, wicketkeeper Sreyas Movva would take the place of Wijeyaratne. 

USA could boast five total half centuries and 20 wickets heading into the penultimate game of the series, as comprehensive in victory as USA has been against Canada in T20i. But there was no doubt on Friday that Harmeet Singh was the standout in the series clinching game. And luckily for USA, standing out is something Harmeet Singh is used to.

A deserved reputation

Harmeet first made waves in the USA as one of three members of India’s 2012 U19 World Cup winning squad recruited to move to the USA before the first year of Minor League Cricket, along with Unmukt Chand and Smit Patel. A glance at his Minor League stats show him ranked 17th all time in wickets, with 43 in 40 games, at an economy of 5.51, along with 558 runs at 165.09 in 31 innings with the bat.

These are great numbers for T20 cricket, but these numbers must be put in context to truly appreciate Harmeet’s impact. For three seasons in MiLC, Harmeet has put up those numbers in the toughest division in the league. During his first two seasons, Harmeet captained Seattle Thunderbolts. There, along with USA teammates Shadley Van Schalkwyk and Andries Gous, he won the 2022 MiLC National Championship. But the Thunderbolts barely made it into the postseason in the loaded West Division. 

Six weeks into the regular season, the Thunderbolts stood at 7-3, thanks to two consecutive losses to Unmukt Chand and the defending champion Silicon Valley Strikers, and were behind the East Bay Blazers by two points in the standings and trailing in net run rate. With four games remaining, Seattle had only a 30% chance of qualifying for the playoffs.

Two wins the following weekend kept Seattle behind East Bay by two points. In those two games, Harmeet batted sixth, ending both innings not out for a total of 37 runs from 19 balls. Up to this point in Harmeet’s MiLC career, he had scored a total of 239 runs from 72 balls across 16 innings, having crossed 25 runs only three times with zero half centuries. His numbers were good enough that nobody questioned his ability, but he’d never really carried a big load with his bat.

In spite of the two wins, Seattle’s chances of making the playoffs had dropped to 26%, as they still trailed East Bay in net run rate. With the Blazers set to face basement dwellers Hollywood for their final game, it was clear that Seattle would need to overtake East Bay in NRR if they wanted to qualify for the playoffs. And while East Bay were looking ahead to a likely easy win, Seattle would have to blow out the Golden State Grizzlies twice, the prior season’s Pacific Conference finalists.

In the first game, clutch bowling from Harmeet and Shadley would contribute to holding GSG to 122, and Seattle would chase down the target in 11.5 overs. But just eight minutes prior, East Bay had beaten Hollywood by nine wickets, chasing the 108 target in 11.2 overs. This meant that Seattle would have to close a .40 Net Run Rate difference in the final regular season game. 

In that final game, after holding the Grizzlies to 110/8 in the first innings, Seattle would have to successfully chase within 8.4 overs in order to advance to the playoffs. After Andries Gous fell on the first ball of the second over, Harmeet entered one down to bear the burden for his team. Harmeet pummeled 45 runs from 13 deliveries, and thanks to support from fellow Seattle Orca Shubham Ranjane and Canada’s Rayyan Pathan, Seattle crossed the line on the first ball of the eighth over to earn their first playoff berth.

Harmeet followed with innings of 56 from 19, 37 from 12, 22 from 11 and 20 from 10, leading Seattle to the 2022 MiLC crown, and firmly taking his place as the most dangerous all rounder spinner in MiLC.

Five months later, Major League Cricket’s Seattle Orcas would call Harmeet’s name as the first overall draft pick in MLC history. 

In his first MLC season, Harmeet would help the Orcas to the league finals, taking seven wickets in seven innings at an impressive 7.13 economy, but would only see three balls with the bat.

Friday’s International breakthrough

Harmeet Singh’s effort on Friday was no different than what we’ve come to expect from a player who often wears his emotions on his chest. But Friday morning began on a somber note for Harmeet. In Peter Della Penna’s post game interview, we learned that Harmeet’s Player Of The Match performance came exactly 3 years to the day after his late mother’s death.

A quick start for USA from Steven Taylor (39 from 24 balls) helped overcome Monank Patel’s first series failure, after the captain was out on the eighth ball of the innings, 2 from 2. Aaron Jones (15 from 14), typically USA’s number four, would bat one down and partner with Taylor through the rest of the powerplay, before the pair would both fall in the seventh to Dillon Heyliger.

Milind Kumar and debutant Corey Anderson would add a glacial 31 across the next 35 balls before Milind would attempt to relieve pressure, skying a slog sweep attempt against Saad Bin Zafar straight up the elevator shaft for Movva to settle under and glove for the fourth wicket. 

Jessy Singh would enter at number six, the most surprising tactical move of the innings. Only 14 runs would come from the next 15 balls until Harsh Thaker would get Jessy Singh LBW for the fifth wicket. One run and two balls later, Corey Anderson would go to his back foot against Thaker and attempt to pull a wide and short delivery into the wind, finding the top third of his bat, out caught at midwicket.

Harmeet would come to the middle to join former Thunderbolt teammate Shadley Van Schalkwyk with USA struggling to get in gear, and Heyliger champing at the bit to unleash more short deliveries to the pair of lefties.

A six run 17th felt like a small victory, considering Heyliger had fulfilled his quota without further loss, but USA looked behind par at 118/6 and only 18 balls left to work with.

Harsh Thaker would continue from the other end in the 18th, with two left handed batters still in the middle, and Harmeet would find the middle of his bat on the second ball of the over and never really lose it. The pair would add 19 runs to the total during the over, 18 of them off of Harmeet’s bat.

A six from Shadley on the fifth ball of the 19th, and a four from Harmeet in the 20th would help add 11 from each over, and USA would end the innings with 159 on the board. The 48 run partnership in 28 balls had changed the complexion of the game and given USA a defendable total.

Harmeet entered the attack in the fourth over of the chase. A slow start from Canada had them at just 15 runs, four of which coming from leg byes. Spinning tires against Saurabh Netravalkar and Nosh Kenjige, Aaron Johnson had scored only a single from nine balls.

On his first ball to Johnson, Harmeet’s approach took him wide in his crease, and the lefty angled an arm ball in, hitting pad in line with off stump, and the Canadian star was out LBW, leaving his team in a hole after scoring just one from ten.

Harmeet would strike again on the very next ball, tempting Pargat Singh down the wicket with an identical wide approach as the prior delivery. This time, though it pitched in roughly the same place, Harmeet’s stock ball turned wide of Pargat’s edge and into Monank Patel’s gloves, and the batter was out stumped for the second straight wicket.

Nicholas Kirton would survive the hat trick ball, finding a run off the inside edge of his bat to the leg side.

Harmeet would return in the 9th for seven runs, as the chase recovered. Nine overs would pass after the Pargat Singh wicket, with Canada ending the 13th at 87/2. Dilpreet Bajwa’s 50 from 36, and Kirton’s support of 27 from 31 had Canada poised to challenge the target.

With Kirton rotating strike in the middle, Monank would call on Steven Taylor for his fourth over of the innings. After three Canada singles from the first four balls, Kirton would go for a big shot against the spin and sky Taylor to Nisarg Patel at third man for the third wicket. Harsh Thaker would enter, having just scored 34 not out from 17 balls in game two.

Harmeet would unseat the hot man Bajwa with the second ball of the over, bowling him clean, as Bajwa skipped himself right into yorker length. Movva would fall on the next ball, his first of the innings, LBW, thanks to another yorker length delivery on the stumps, and Harmeet would have his first international four wicket innings.

In spite of his excellent production in both leagues, Harmeet Singh has not had a four wicket innings in either Minor League Cricket or Major League Cricket. He now has one in just his third International innings for USA.

Canada saw a valiant effort from captain Saad Bin Zafar and Dillon Heyliger after Harsh Thaker fell to Jessy SIngh on the second ball of the 19th over with Canada at 123/6. With 25 runs needed from the final frame, Canada could manage 14, and USA won by 11.

For his bowling figures of four overs, eleven runs and four wickets, along with his batting contribution of 34* off of 17, Harmeet Singh was named Player of the Match. Likely the first of many to come.

 You can follow USA Cricket action, news and analysis on Emerging Cricket’s weekly Big Innings podcast

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