Strong showing from USA debutants, captain as scoring controversy allays victory

Nosh Kenjige, seen here celebrating a wicket in 2022, took three wickets and bagged a runout for USA in Game 1 vs Canada.

A scoring controversy has dampened what should have been a clean and convincing victory by USA against Canada at Prairie View Cricket Complex on Sunday.

Five new names appeared on a USA T20i scorecard for the first time to start USA’s five game series against Canada. Shadley Van Schalkwyk, Harmeet Singh, Milind Kumar, Andries Gous, and ODI veteran Nosthush Kenjige joined veterans Steven Taylor, Monank Patel, Aaron Jones, Gajanand Singh, Saurabh Netravalkar and Jessy Singh to form the host eleven.

Canada, having recently wrapped a four game prep series against a team sponsored by Minor League Cricket’s Dallas Mustangs, debuted 22-year-old fast bowler Uday Bhagwan Singh. All 11 selected for the opening game vs USA were listed in the 13 man squad that chased 161 with 12 balls and 8 wickets to spare for Canada’s lone victory against the host Minor League squad.

The early wicket of Aaron Johnson, who had struggled in the first over against Saurabh Netravalkar, put the brakes on Canada’s Powerplay. Johnson scored one off of five in the first over, before bouncing back to score 11 in the second off of Kenjige. Saurabh’s second ball of the third over, a bit wide, full and straight, was pummeled over covers for four, as Canada’s X-factor was able to free his hands. Netravalkar followed with a ball pitched at good length on middle stump, and Johnson attempted a back foot pull, instead skying an easy catch to Jessy Singh at mid-on.

Pargat Singh joined Srimantha Wijeyeratne for a painful 15 runs off of the next 25, thanks to Harmeet Singh, Jessy Singh, and Shadley Van Schalkwyk. Only 12 of those 15 runs came off the bat, with two wides and a leg bye mixed in. After six overs, captain Monank Patel had utilized five bowlers, and Canada were struggling to adapt.

With Kenjige’s ball turning in the seventh, and Canada 18 balls removed from their last boundary, Wijeyeratne threw his hands at a full, flighted delivery on leg stump, sweeping the ball firmly into the wind, and finding the waiting hands of Van Schalkwyk at deep backward square. The wicket was Kenjige’s first in T20I, after featuring in 40 ODIs for USA.

Three balls later, Navneet Dhaliwal found himself too eager to run, and cost Canada their third wicket. Pargat Singh nudged a ball to Kenjige’s left, and the left hander charged in from point and side-armed a pass to Harmeet Singh at the non-striker’s end to easily retire Canada’s veteran number four.

Canada countered with ten runs in the ninth, thanks to two boundary fours from Pargat Singh off of Jessy Singh. Harmeet Singh would concede eight in the tenth over, before Monank Patel’s diving catch would extinguish the kindling threat of Harsh Thaker. Thaker, who was heating up with two boundaries in his previous four balls, edged a good length delivery by Van Schalkwyk to Monank’s right, and the nimble wicketkeeper pounced with a diving catch at the extent of his right arm’s reach. The highlight grab ended a 31 run partnership that spanned 22 balls and threatened to pull Canada firmly back into the game.

Two balls later, Kenjige would continue his player of the match performance. A slow, loopy delivery caught Pargat Singh down the wicket. Pitching just outside of off stump, an area where Kenjige affected a lot of turn, the ball indeed spun into the reaching hands of USA’s captain wicketkeeper. After coming up with air and turning just in time to watch Monank sweeping the bails off, Pargat joined his scoring partner in the dugout before Canada would add another run to their total.

Two overs and one ball later, Kenjige would take his third wicket, this time bowled. Angling in to Dilpreet Bajwa, Kenjige turned the ball just beyond the outside edge of the batter as he attempted to defend the flatter delivery on his back foot.

For the next four overs, Captain Saad Bin Zafar and Nicholas Kirton would build the best partnership of the innings, adding 41 runs to the target. Zafar, exploiting the lefty/lefty matchup, scored a six and a four to start the 18th over against Netravalkar. A dipping yorker for the third ball would get under the bat and strike Canada’s captain plumb on the front pad, giving Saurabh his second wicket on the day.

Heyliger would enter and score seven off of the final three balls of the 18th, and Canada might have been happy to trade 17 runs for a wicket had they not been left with the tail and only three wickets in hand.

Jessy Singh would take his first wicket of the series, retiring the appropriately intent Heyliger and concede six in the 19th. Van Schalkwyk would close out the innings with Kirton’s wicket and Canada would run out the final ball, a bye, for a run until Milind Kumar could express his throwing talent by getting Rishiv Joshi easily at the keeper’s end after collecting an overthrow which allowed the first run.

Canada had set a target of 133, and it never seemed like enough.

Perhaps surprising many USA fans, Monank Patel would open the chase along with Steven Taylor. Most had Monank pegged as the one down batter, with debutant Andries Gous having earned a place in the team through his performances as an opener. However, the decision proved fruitful, as the opening pair would score 47 without loss in the power play, slowed only by a two run third over by Bhagwan Singh.

After Steven Taylor scored only one from five balls during Harsh Thaker’s two power play overs, Canada seemed intent to continue with off spin bowling. Taylor had scored 21 from 15 against everyone else, and so Zafar brought Nicholas Kirton into the attack in the seventh over. Three dot balls later, with pressure building, Taylor charged down the wicket. A quicker delivery destined to be wide behind the batter forced Taylor into a one handed tennis style shot to save himself from a stumping. Strangely, Taylor’s contact with the ball was clean enough to send a flat low chance to Pargat Singh, who collected it diving forward from fine leg for the first wicket of the innings.

This brought Andries Gous into the middle, and the natural opener would face a steady diet of spin from Zafar and Kirton to start his USA batting career. The plan would not bear fruit, as Gous and Patel went on to score 32 from the next 20 balls. Canada would turn to Dilon Heyliger to stop the bleeding.

Four runs in the 11th over helped, but it was a Band-Aid on an open wound, as USA were well on their way.

Canada turned again to Thaker, but the trend resumed, and 14 runs from Gous, including two sixes and a four, brought up USA’s 100.

Heyliger stayed on at the other end and promptly surrendered a boundary that brought on Monank’s maiden T20I half century in his 18th innings, to go along with ten half centuries and two centuries in ODI. Three dot balls later, Heylinger’s added bounce would pay off, as Monank would sky a drive into the wind and the safe hands of Kirton at long on.

And this is where the scoring errors would begin. Heyliger’s wicket was actually the fifth ball of the 13th over, but following a drinks break, Saad Bin Zafar would take the ball from the other end and begin the 14th over. A phantom run was given to Aaron Jones as the final ball of the 13th. After a single by Gous to start the 14th, several dot balls that were played by Aaron Jones off of Saad Bin Zafar would be scored to Gous and Thaker, respectively. This incorrectly took Gous from 32 off of 21 to 32 off of 25.

Gous would continue to dole out damage in the 15th over, with two boundaries and nine runs off of Rishiv Joshi, before Zafar would retire Aaron Jones LBW on the first ball of the 16th. Milind Kumar would enter and partner with Gous as the later would collect his maiden half century on debut pulling Heyliger for six on the first ball of the 18th. One ball later, with the scoreboard showing one run needed to win, Gous would go to the pull shot again, this time caught by a diving Harsh Thaker at square leg.

Gajanand Singh would score that run on the very next ball, and the game would be called for USA.

The phantom runs credited to Aaron Jones would become a point of contention for Canada. According to American cricket writer Peter Della Penna on X (formerly Twitter), Canada coach “Pubudu Dassanayake and captain Saad Bin Zafar have submitted a formal complaint to ICC match referee Reon King over scoring errors in USA vs Canada 1st T20I. Canada believe they were shorted 2 runs batting + USA was given 2 phantom runs in their chase.”

Game two will take place at 3pm local time on Tuesday, April 9.

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