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2010 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup
Finally! USA-19 Registered A Win

By Lloyd Jodah
Jan. 27th, 2010
Emotion is a strong factor in of all of human accomplishment, and plenty of it showed up at the USA vs. Afghanistan match - the final game for both teams at the 2010 Under-19 World Cup. In September when the two teams first played each other both teams' management and players were eager to downplay any tension between the two, despite the war in Afghanistan. The USA team's performance probably lacked emotion as a result, and Afghanistan won that game. Wednesday Team USA needed to win at least one game before going home from this World Cup, and it so happened the team they were taking on was Afghanistan.

USA Under-19 team now has something to celebrate, a win over Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of USACA.

The story of Afghanistan cricket, and their Under-19 team, is a remarkable one of perseverance and accomplishment, considering the state of the country for the past two decades. Getting visas is difficult, made worse because three of its players stayed behind in Canada last September, instead of returning home. But the Under-19 game against India was the first cricket match televised live in Afghanistan and Afghan President Hamid Karzai sent a message to his players that he was staying up until 3am to watch the game. So in different ways both teams were carrying the aspirations of its fans at home.

Afghanistan won the toss and elected to bat on a bright sunny but humid day, temperatures in the 70's. Unlike the game in Canada where there were a couple hundred vociferous Afghan supporters, today the ground was quiet. Salman Ahmad and Hammad Shahid opened the bowling for the USA and Shahid soon beat Javed Ahmadi with pace to bowl him for five. The ensuing celebration by Shahid and his teammates received a cautionary word from the umpires. M.S. Aminzai and the Afghan captain Noor-ul-Haq then put on 24 before Shahid struck again, getting Aminzai lbw for 10 after 10.5 overs. This was another key blow struck by the 6' 5" high school student Hammad Shahid.

Hammad Shahid put on a fiery bowling attack, taking 3 wickets for 18 runs that earned him the man-of-the-match award. Photo courtesy of USACA.

Salman Ahmad then got Shir Shirzai for a duck and the screws tightened. Saqib Saleem 6.2-0-20-3, and Yash Shah 9-0-16-2 finished the job and the Afghans were all out for 86 in 32.2 overs. However, it was Hammad Shahid who turned in a fiery performance of 7-1-18-3 and taking two fine catches, earning him the Man-of-the-Match award.

Opening the batting for USA was Steven Taylor and Henry Wardley - architects of the most successful opening partnership for the team on this tour (112 vs. PNG). Taylor immediately took his Chris Gayle-like approach to the backward of square. USA 32 off 5 overs, Taylor 19. The tall strapping Taylor slogged five fours before going for one too many pulls and getting bowled for 30 off 24 balls. He and Wardley had again given the USA a good start. Gregory Sewdial then came in with the USA score at 49 for 1, and victory within reach. Wardley said, "I like batting with Steven, his approach takes the pressure off of me."

Wardley cover drove beautifully for a boundary, then a pulled shot through mid-wicket for 4 run by the batsmen. Sewdial then stroked one to the fine-leg boundary for a four to give USA its first win of this World Cup, and by 9 wickets. Sewdial was 14 not out, whilst the dependable Wardley's contribution that ensured the victory, came without any scares by making a solid 27 not out, in the USA's 87 for 1 in 14.2 overs victory. One can only wonder what would have happened had he been allowed to make more appearances in this World Cup, following his sterling batting performance against Papua New Guinea.

There will be much said about this tour as the players return home, and return to colleges and high schools. Whilst fans wanted better results, the players did well considering the limitations the team's preparation faced over the past year, versus that of the opposing teams. There can be lessons learnt from this tour that could make the USA contenders for the 2012 Under-19 World Cup.

Amidst all the dialogue that will ensue I'd like to put in my two cents.
1. Cut the grass! The fields our cricketers play on usually have long uncut grass, which forces them to hit the ball in the air to score runs. This is much more risky than playing shots along the ground. Let's get this basic condition right.

2. We must approach our cricketing preparations like the "rich" nation that we are. In the off-season our cricketers should be in the gym, working with trainers. Whatever we lack in cricket facilities we can try to make up for in excellence of athleticism. It doesn't take turf wickets to be the best fielders or fastest bowlers or highly motivated athletes.

3. Population-wise we have what it takes to be a cricketing power. New York alone has more people than the West Indies, and a High School cricket league of 30 teams. There is no reason USA cannot reach the finals of the 2012 Under-19 World Cup.

In closing, thanks to the 2010 USA Under-19 World Cup team for representing us on the world stage.

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