After a strong start to the 2022 Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifiers B in Zimbabwe, USA’s pursuit of their first World Cup berth came to an end on Friday at the hands of undefeated Netherlands.
USA lost just two wickets in their first two games, Group B victories over Jersey and Singapore, led by Steven Taylor’s 159 runs off of just 86 balls. The victories sent USA into the semifinal round, but a 46 run loss to tournament favorite Zimbabwe in the final group stage game hinted at a lack of form in USA’s middle order.
Chasing Zimbabwe’s 186, Taylor and captain Monank Patel got USA off to a solid start with a 55 run partnership before Monank (17 from 15) was caught on the penultimate ball of the powerplay. After Taylor (46 from 32) fell for the third wicket with USA at 80 runs from the first 68 balls of the innings, the wheels came off and USA lost four more wickets in their next 38 balls, yielding only 33 runs. Only Nisarg Patel, 24 runs not out from 17 balls, gave Zimbabwe troubles after Taylor’s wicket.
The loss meant that USA would finish the group stage in second place, and match up against undefeated Group A winners Netherlands for a berth in the 2022 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia.
During the first game of the tournament, Ali Khan was violently struck by a comebacker off the bat of Jersey’s Ben Ward and suffered a fracture on his bowling arm. His replacement, former India U-19 all rounder and current Morrisville Raptor Duvvarapu Siva Kumar, flew in from North Carolina on Wednesday and Thursday. Barely off the plane, Siva Kumar would make his USA debut in one of the biggest games in the history of American cricket, inserted in place of middle order batter Sushant Modani.
Sadly, Siva Kumar’s presence didn’t keep USA from a similar batting innings on Friday, this time with USA batting first. Once again, USA got off to a solid start with Steven Taylor and Monank Patel, and once again the partnership ended in the sixth over with USA in the 50s, this time it was Taylor out first for 26 runs from 23 balls.
Two overs later, Monank’s blistering innings came to an end for 32 runs from just 15 balls, as he was caught at deep midwicket while trying to capitalize on a half-tracker from young leg-spinner Shariz Ahmad. From there (68/2 at 7.5 overs), USA scored only 42 runs and lost 5 more wickets across the next 43 balls, due in part to poor decision making and communication running between the wickets, resulting in two runouts, both involving the debutant Siva Kumar.
Two more runouts (Nisarg Patel and Cameron Stevenson) ensured a low total, and USA posted 138 all out with two balls left unseen.
With the way the Netherlands had played coming into Friday, winning all three of their group stage games with a massive NRR of 3.473, USA were going to have to take wickets if they had a chance of winning.
USA managed to take three wickets in the first eight overs, with Netherlands at 62/3 after eight, but 22 year old Bas De Leede had other ideas. Already a veteran of forty International contests, De Leede produced what’s likely the greatest innings in his career to date in either format. Partnering with wicket keeper and captain Scott Edwards for the final 76 runs, De Leede navigated USA’s desperate attack to comfortably steer the Netherlands to victory with an over to spare. Walking with his bat, De Leede’s 91 from 67 was the third highest scoring innings in the qualifier.
The loss for USA means their 2022 T20 World Cup dreams come to an end, and that Netherlands will advance to the first round, along with Zimbabwe.
USA faced up against explosive PNG in the third place play-off, a game of little significance in reality, considering that the World Cup berths have already been sealed. With nothing on the line aside from pride, youngsters Vatsal Vaghela and Yasir Mohammaed finally got a start in place of captain Monank Patel and Siva Kumar. USA made quick work of PNG, bowling them out for 97 with 21 balls left on the table in the 17th over, with Vatsal (3 overs, 12 runs, 2 wickets) and Yasir (3 overs, 18 runs, 1 wicket) performing admirably.
Thanks to the lethal and economical bowling of Norman Vanua, Assad Vala, Sese Bau and player of the match Chad Soper, Papua New Guinea would defend the low target, and USA would be all out with five balls to go and six needed to win. Vatsal (29 runs from 32 balls) and Yasir (16 runs from 25 balls) were the top two scorers in the USA’s failed chase.
The pain of missing out on a World Cup berth for USA is surely dulled by the fact that USA is set to co-host the 2024 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. But surely, aside from just the significance of making a T20 World Cup, USA would have benefitted from more meaningful T20I contests that they don’t seem to get outside of ICC pathway events.
Since the opportunity for International status was extended to all T20 Associate Members in 2019, USA have played only 21 T20I. Of the seven Associate Members in these qualifiers, none have played fewer T20I than USA.
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