It took USA a complete team effort to edge out Nepal in another see-saw battle after a thrilling tie on Saturday.Sushant Modani and Gajanand Singh fifties along with an incisive opening burst from fast bowler Ali Khan and lower order demolition work from Saurabh Netravalkar handed USA a thumping 39 run victory over Nepal.
Nepal had USA in all sorts within the first half hour after putting them in. Karan KC lured Steven Taylor and Monank Patel to drive uppishly into a packed offside cordon for single digit scores. From being 8 for 2 at the fall of Monank’s wicket in the 3rd over, Jones and Modani counterpunched to have USA at 44 at the end of the powerplay. Jones relied on his crunching drives whereas Modani was quick to dispatch the short balls towards the midwicket fence.
The pair further stabilized the USA innings by batting through the next 10 overs, adding another 38 runs albeit with a small blip. Dhakal floored a chip back off Modani in the 20th over after he had one grip off the surface off his own bowling. Dipendra Singh Airee broke through the 88 run stand in the 25th over after he induced an edge out of an expansive Jones drive. Modani brought up his well compiled half century off 78 deliveries. The celebrations didn’t last long for Modani as he holed out at long off of Sandeep Lamichhanne to have USA on the hooks at 110 for 4.
Gajanand Singh hammered one over deep mid wicket and fiercely flashed another one through point three balls later to showcase signs of a possible return to form. Singh’s flamboyance and Sai Mukkamalla’s doggedness provided the silver lining for USA as the pair stitched a rapid 85-run stand off 93 deliveries to lift USA. Teenager Mukkamalla skied one off Sompal Kami to depart after a brave 36 off 51 balls, giving a measure of his potential at top flight cricket. Singh sustained his initial tempo throughout his innings of 58 off 60 balls, before miscuing a sweep to long leg. Noshthush Kenjige, Nisarg Patel and Cameron Stevenson combined to add 44 in the final 5 overs to catapult USA to a competitive 245.
USA presented Kushal Bhurtel with an early reprieve as Monank failed to latch onto a regulation take off Netravalkar. Ali Khan then produced a couple of snorters out of a life-less wicket to send back the Nepal openers with a mere 38 runs on the board. USA were fortunate to see the back of Aasif Sheikh, fresh off his strokeful half century on Saturday, as he looked in ominous touch again, cracking three boundaries in his brief stay. Paudel then audaciously clubbed Kenjige over cow corner off his 3rd ball of the innings and continued assuming high risk in his batting approach as he missed Kenjige’s slider off yet another slog sweep attempt. Dev Khanal looked resolute with 34 off 47 before a sensational direct hit from Mukkamalla from the point boundary ended his innings prematurely. Nisarg Patel knicked off Airee within a couple of overs to have Nepal in the abyss at 93 for 5 in the 22nd over.
With another 153 required off 172 balls, Aarif Sheikh and Sompal Kami tried to piece the Nepal batting puzzle together. The pair weathered the flurry of wickets and built a slow recovery. After adding 14 runs off the next 8 overs, the duo threw caution to the winds, plundering 12 off a Taylor over. The over thrusted the Nepal innings forward with Sheikh and Kami showing increased urgency on the wicket. Aarif Sheikh brought up a valiant half century off 65 balls as the pair refused to let USA off the hook.
Netravalkar changed the complexion of the game in the 45th over by ending Sheikh’s resistance and acrobatically running out the dangerous Kami a couple of balls later. He returned in the 47th over to clean up Karan KC and Lamichhanne to have Nepal limping at 204 for 9. Ali Khan put an end to the proceedings in the next over by uprooting Mohammad Alam, the hero of the tied clash, as a jubilant USA wrapped an important victory towards their push to make it to the top 3 of the World Cup League 2 table.