USA Minor League Cricket week five preview

Church Street Park on Saturday, October 3 2020

Minor League Cricket’s (MiLC) inaugural miniseason continues with six more games, as USA Cricket has announced a fifth exhibition weekend in Illinois, Texas and California. 

Four weekends have seen plenty of action and drama as many of the nation’s best cricketers team up and face off across the country. The shortened MiLC season has already featured 45 games, seven centuries, three five-wicket hauls, two positive instances of Covid-19, and a nonstriker runout. 

In Texas, the Austin Athletics (2-3) play the Houston Hurricanes (2-3) in a home and away series. On Saturday, the Athletics host the Hurricanes on the artificial wicket of Round Rock Cricket Ground in Austin, Texas at 1pm. Sunday’s matchup is back on turf in Houston at the Prairie View Cricket Complex.

A closely contested game in Morrisville, North carolina between the Cardinals and the Atlanta Param Veers featured a rare nonstriker runout.

The Texas group has played on turf and artificial wickets, with quite different results. On turf, the group averages a first innings score of 131, and the chasing team has won 4 out of 5 times. On artificial surfaces, the group averages a first innings score of 182, and the team batting first has won 3 out of 4. This represents a first innings run rate difference of 2.55 an over between turf and artificial surfaces. 

Athletics batsman Ali Samad has performed well on the turf wickets at Prairie View, twice scoring half centuries to lead his team to victory against the Hurricanes and the Irving Mustangs. “I love to play on turf wicket, it’s real cricket, totally different cricket than astro,” Ali told Emerging Cricket

Samad’s 57 not out from 35 balls on September 19 was enough to boost Austin beyond Houston’s 169 in 18.3 overs. On October 3, Ali came in one down chasing 132 and batted 13 overs scoring 50 off of 51 before finally succumbing to Nosthush Kenjige. He did however set the stage for Willem Ludick to finish the job with 28 off of 12. Ali’s 4 overs for 13 runs and a wicket in the first innings also contributed significantly to the 6 wicket win.

Houston has not been without their own turf performers. In that losing effort on September 19, former Pakistan international Rameez Raja Jr’s 103 not out from 64 helped Houston set a target of 169, the highest first innings total on turf in the Texas group by 37 runs. Across all surfaces, Rameez has 240 runs from five innings with a strike rate of 155.84 and an average of 60.

Rusty Theron’s bowling has been some of the best in the entire Minor League Cricket exhibition season.

In the West, East Bay Blazers take on Silicon Valley Strikers in a Saturday doubleheader at Arroyo Park. The Bay Area group is the only group in the league to feature every game on turf. When compared the Texas group on turf, the Bay Area’s average first innings is six runs higher than the former’s, at 137.3 runs. “It’s been really good to play all our games on turf, it brings about an even contest between bat and ball. Batsmen are rewarded for applying themselves, and there’s something for the bowlers too,” Blazer’s Josh Dascombe told Emerging Cricket. “Hopefully we can see more games on turf moving forward right across the country, providing an even yardstick.”

The Blazers pace attack has arguably been their biggest asset. Nick Mclachlan (23.4 overs, 4.37 econ, 10 wickets), USA national player Rusty Theron (24 overs, 5.21 econ, 10 wickets) and 21 year old Ruchir Joshi (22 overs, 5.86 econ, 5 wickets) have led an attack which has put the Blazers on top of the table with five wins out of six. Left arm orthodox Josh Dascombe (18.2 overs, 6.44 econ, 7 wickets) has been reliable and dangerous as the primary spinner for the Blazers. 

“The most pleasing part from a team perspective is how equal the contributions have been throughout the year,” said Dascombe. “We haven’t had to rely on one or two, everyone has contributed with the bat, putting their hand up and performing from time to time, and with the ball too.” Indeed, the youth have thrived along with the more experienced veterans. Seventeen year olds Dev Thanadi (10 overs, 5.5 econ, 5 wickets) and Sanjay Krishnamurthi (11 overs, 6.18 econ, 4 wickets) have both performed when given the ball. Krishnamurthi has also done the job as a finisher with the bat, ranking second on the team in runs to former USA batsman Shiva Vashishat with 140. 

Finally, the MidWest group will feature a weekend home and home series between the Chicago Catchers and the Chicago Blasters, with Saturday’s contest at Washingon Park, and Sunday’s at Prairie Lakes Park. The Blasters pace the table at 2-0, with both wins coming against the Michican Cricket Stars. The Catchers at 1-1 would claim sole possession of first place with a series sweep. 

In the Blasters most recent game, Shaheer Hasan and Fahad Babar joined up to set an MiLC exhibition opening partnership record of 174, carrying the team all the way to a 10 wicket win against Michigan. In the first innings, slow left arm orthodox bowler Hunain Amin stifled the Cricket Stars batting, allowing 19 runs off of 4 overs with 3 wickets. For the Cricket Stars, Arjun Ajbani (41 from 32) and Shaker Ahmed (38 from 27) clicked in the middle order to help set a target of 169.

The Catchers most recent game was also a win against Michigan Cricket Stars. Aamir Shahzad (4-17-2), Waseem Khan (4-21-2), and Sikander Soleja (3.4-20-3) combined to cut Captain Shaker Ahmed (25 from 16) and the Stars innings short in the 19th over, all out for 132. In the second innings, Sarwar Ghori (32 from 26) and Arjun Arun Kumar (65 from 51) helped the Catchers batting take off, and the momentum carried the Catchers to a 7 wicket victory in the 18th over.

The remainder of the exhibition season schedule will be announced by USA Cricket next week.

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