USA announce cricket arrival with seismic T20 World Cup victory over Pakistan

Tournament hosts stun their heavyweight opponents in a Super Over thriller in Dallas

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Just hold on a minute. Are we really all ready for an American takeover of cricket? The sport has apparently been waiting forever for the United States to happen. Well, here we go.

A week into their first attempt at co-hosting a T20 World Cup, the USA have cracked it. And it is all a bit unnerving.

On opening night, they were spellbinding in beating a close rival.

They have provided a cricket fan bucket-list venue at the baseball ballpark-turned cricket ground in Dallas, which hosted perhaps the most vivid spectacle of the tournament so far when Nepal played the Netherlands.

And now, the greatest moment yet in the long and storied history of United States cricket.

Better than them hosting the first ever international cricket match (albeit a loss to Canada in Manhattan in 1844).

Better than that time President Barack Obama said, shortly after starting his tenure in the White House, said he was reading Netherland, the cricket-based novel by Joseph O’Neill.

On Thursday, they beat Pakistan. They did it in the most thrilling manner imaginable, via a Super Over. Although they needed that tiebreaker to settle it, the USA fully deserved it.

If it is possible to dominate a nerve-shredding tie, then they managed it. They were brilliant.

How did they manage to be so cool? This time last year, the USA players were getting themselves into trouble with cricket’s authorities as they were getting het up over playing against Jersey in front of a handful of people in Windhoek.

The Channel Islanders are a few rungs down the ladder from Pakistan, and yet, with a partisan crowd baying for the other team as well as millions watching on TV, the USA controlled it. It was crazy stuff.

The USA had enjoyed the perfect start on the opening day of the competition on Saturday. But that win had come against the side they know better than anyone else: Canada.

Pakistan presented an entirely different proposition. The two countries had never previously met in international cricket, and the home players would have been right to feel at least some sense of trepidation.

The exalted – if enigmatic – status of their opposition will not have been wasted on them. Then when the starting XIs came out, they will have seen they were going up against three of the fieriest fast bowlers in the world, plus one of its cleverest, in the form of the returning Mohammed Amir.

Their ambitions for a win would have been more in the region of hope rather than expectation. And then, off the eighth ball of the match, Steven Taylor gave them reason to believe that anything was possible.

The Floridian all-rounder has been known as “Bob” since he first started out with his national team, on account of him taking a SpongeBob SquarePants backpack with him on his first USA tour. He has been a part of the furniture with their side for over 15 years.

Whether in all that time he has enjoyed quite such a memorable moment as here seems unlikely. He dived across to his right from his position at slip and held a one-handed catch an inch off the beautifully manicured grass at the Grand Prairie Stadium.

It spelt the end of Mohammed Rizwan’s stay at the wicket, and the start of a muddled display by the Pakistan batters.

Usman Khan and Fakhar Zaman gave away their wickets with poorly thought-through shots. Babar Azam made a pedestrian 44. Azam Khan fell first ball.

Limiting them to 159 for seven from their 20 overs will have been satisfactory, at the very least, for the USA. But, given the capabilities of Pakistan’s bowling attack, chasing it was never going to be a given.

They went about the chase with all the assurance of a side of seasoned veterans from the game’s elite, not one who washes around the second tier of the sport, gathering crumbs from under the rich man’s table.

Monank Patel led the way with 50. Andries Gous powered them forward. Aaron Jones continued to write his name in lights, just as he did on opening night.

They did stutter just as the winning line was in sight, and needed a last-ball boundary by Nitish Kumar to level the scores.

Jones was again their go-to guy with the bat in the Super Over that followed, although the fact they reached 18 was more an indictment of Pakistan.

Only 10 of those runs were off the bat. The eight extras off Amir’s over included overthrows by wicketkeeper Rizwan off a wide.

The hosts matched Pakistan’s gameplan by using their own left-arm seamer, Saurabh Netravalkar, to bowl. He was nervy, understandably so, but he got the job done.

It is tempting to suggest he started the party by limiting Pakistan to 13. In truth, what he did was extend it.

Updated: June 07, 2024, 3:56 AM