USA will represent the Americas in the U19 World Cup for the first time since 2010, thanks to a victory over rival Canada on Friday in King City, Ontario.
From the start, the double round robin qualifier always looked like it would come down to Canada or USA. This was especially true following each team’s opening game, with Canada defeating Argentina by 363 runs, and USA chasing Bermuda’s 163 with 137 balls to spare and seven wickets in hand on August 11. This set up a dramatic first matchup, with Canada winning on the final ball of the chase, after bowling USA out for 183 in the shortened 40 overs innings.
On the rebound from the loss, USA would take their frustrations out on Argentina, scoring a record 515 runs at a loss of eight wickets to defeat Argentina by 450 runs. Each of USA’s top six batters scored at least 45 runs, with two batters in the 60s (Pranav Chettipalayum and Arjun Mahesh) and two centurions (Bhavya Mehta and Rishi Ramesh). A six-wicket haul from Aarin Nadkarni in only six overs helped end Argentina’s innings in the 20th over of the chase. The immense victory gave USA a net run rate advantage that they wouldn’t relinquish by the time of the USA vs Canada rematch on Friday, meaning the winner would advance to the World Cup to represent the region.
The drama of the rematch nearly didn’t transpire, as rain on the eve of the game continued into the early morning and threatened the match. After some diligence from the umpires, a shortened 23 overs per side match was finally announced to begin at 3:40pm. With everything on the line, a hopeful USA squad won the toss and elected to bowl first.
“We were very eager. At one point, our hopes were down,” eventual Player of the Match, Utkarsh Srivastava told Emerging Cricket. “At around 2pm, none of us thought the game was going to happen. And suddenly, when the covers were off, we were all warming up, ready to go.”
Canada lost their first three batters by the third ball of the fifth over for just 15 runs, as that eagerness of USA manifested in early results. For the next five overs, Jai Singh and Ajayveer Singh scored 26 runs in a promising partnership lasting 31 balls before offspinner Parth Patel claimed Jai in the 11th over and Ajayveer in the 13th, leaving Canada at 50 for 5. Yash Mondkar put up a fight scoring 22 from 28, while Srivastava and Nadkarni would root out his partners Sagar Patel and Ravindra Nauth, respectively before the end of the 18th over.
Srivastava would eventually end Mondkar’s innings with the third ball of the 21st over to leave Canada at 84 for eight. Parth Patel’s third wicket would remove Amalan Sivakumaran, leaving Rohan Garg and Yuvraj Hundal to scrape together six more runs by the end of the 22nd over, the revised inning’s end following a brief stoppage for drizzle.
Tournament runs leader Prannav Chettipalayam and Bhavya Mehta would walk into the middle with only 92 runs standing between USA and history.
Canada needed only 22 balls for their first strike, but a fast start from USA’s openers, including an 18 run third over against Yuvraj Hundal, meant that USA were 32 runs closer to victory by the time Ravindra Nauth took Mehta’s wicket. Amalan Sivakumaran would give Canada a brief glimmer of hope three balls later, sending USA captain Rishi Ramesh back with just a run to his name. Arjun Mahesh would help Prannav wrangle the innings squarely back into USA’s favor before Rohan Garg would retire Mahesh, stumped by Jordan Matthews on the fourth ball of the tenth over.
Srivastava would enter the middle with USA at 58 runs for three wickets, and build the required partnership with tournament MVP Prannav that would finish the chase two balls into the 18th over.
Batting out of his natural position during the tournament, Utkarsh scored 25 of USA’s final 38 runs on Friday at number five. “Obviously I want to bat at number three or number four, but this team required me to bat at number five and play the responsible role, and be not-out when the team wins. I think I did that pretty well that last game, just got the team home.”
“It was a big moment for me, the winning moment, and I was glad to be in the middle. I’m pretty sure all of our team lost our voices when we were celebrating. It’s great to be going to the world cup after 13 years. We’ve made history.”
The victory for USA represents much more than the end of this two year cycle. In 2021, USA were denied a chance to compete for a World Cup berth, thanks to Covid, as Canada were sent through due to head to head record in preceding years. That 2021 rendition of USA’s U19 team was highly celebrated, and has since seen five members (Yasir Mohammad, Sai Mukkamalla, Ali Sheikh, Ritwik Behera, and Sanjay Kirshnamurthi) and one reserve (Rahul Jariwala) already represent USA on Men’s senior teams. One other member of that squad has already appeared in a Major League Cricket game (Slade Van Staden).
“The last cycle obviously had some big names,” Srivastava told Emerging Cricket when asked if he felt the team for this current cycle was overshadowed. “Three of them are in Major League, one of them scored a hundred in USA Men’s. I don’t know if we were overlooked, but I think with the skill level we had, we did great to beat Canada and be a part of the World Cup in 2024.”
One major difference between this edition of USA’s U19 squad and previous squads was the lack of spin bowling options which turn the ball away from right handed batters. The 2021 squad featured three such bowlers who most projected to feature together in the playing eleven, and the left arm orthodox position in the USA is typically regarded as one of its deepest roles.
“We had less away spin. We had two off spinners and just one leggy,” Srivastava, USA’s Vice Captain, said. “We can only play three spinners, so that one leg spinner had to be our main leggy. I think our pacers did very well to cover up our weakness we had in spin. That was the one thing that we were a little worried (about).”
The 2024 ICC Men’s U19 World Cup schedule has yet to be released, but the tournament should transpire in February or March.
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