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  • Darpankumar Patel hits the first century of the Franchise Exhibition Matches in a high-scoring thriller in Atlanta.
  • USA national players Rusty Theron, Nosthush Kenjige and Karima Gore put in impressive performances during the opening weekend 

Eleven Minor League Cricket Franchise Exhibition Matches took place last weekend, taking the much-awaited first steps for the return to cricket in America in 2020. These Exhibition Matches are a precursor to the inaugural Minor League Cricket tournament, scheduled to take place in spring next year. The opening weekend of matches featured 14 of the 24 franchise teams playing at six venues across the country.

The Franchise Exhibition Matches showcased some of the best cricketing talent in the country, with numerous USA national team players in action. Rusty Theron, captain of East Bay Blazers, starred on the West Coast, taking 4-19 in an emphatic win over Golden State Grizzlies at Morgan Hill. That victory ensured East Bay Blazers remained undefeated in the Western Conference, after securing a comfortable four-wicket win over Silicon Valley Strikers a day earlier.

Another Team USA player took centre stage on the opposite coast, as Karima Gore produced an excellent all-round performance for The Philadelphians, but it was not enough to lead his side to victory over the impressive DC Hawks. Gore took 2-21 in his four overs and remained unbeaten on 26, but DC Hawks’ first innings total of 182/6 proved too large a total for The Philadelphians. DC Hawks were the only side on the East Coast to remain undefeated, securing a tense win over Empire State Titans on Sunday. Empire State Titans had won their opening two matches, defeating NJ Stallions and New England Eagles on the opening day.

Meanwhile, in the Central Conference, Nosthush Kenjige spun Irving Mustangs to victories over Austin Athletics and Houston Hurricanes. The left-arm spinner ended with impressive figures of 4-21 on Sunday against Houston, helping his side to a huge 72-run win, and he took 3-26 a day earlier against Austin. Irving Mustang’s encounter with Austin Athletics was a particularly close match, with Austin’s Willem Ludick, a former first-class cricketer in New Zealand, taking 2-31 and scoring 25 with the bat. Ludick’s efforts were not enough though, as Austin fell an agonising 12 runs short. The best bowling figures of the weekend went the way of the Houston Hurricanes in a losing cause, as Hamza Khalid was outstanding with 5 for 22 on Sunday.

It wasn’t a USA national player who took centre-stage in the Southern Conference, but Atlanta local Darpankumar Patel. Atlanta Param Veers and Atlanta Fire played each other twice on Saturday, in two remarkably high-scoring encounters; there were scores of over 200 in each of the four innings. Patel hit a quick 66 (25) opening the batting for the Param Veers in the opening match and went on to hit 115 (45) in the later match. 

These match-winning performances propelled the Param Veers to scores of 236/5 and 244/9, with Atlanta Fire falling an agonising five and ten runs short in both chases respectively. The two sides will meet again on Saturday, which will most likely provide another high-scoring thriller.

Next weekend there are 17 more Exhibition Matches scheduled, with Michigan Cricket Stars, Chicago Blasters, Chicago Catchers and Morrisville Cardinals all in action for the first time. 

Franchise Exhibition Match Results:

Saturday 12th September
Idlewild Park

Empire State Titans: 184/4 (20.0)

NJ Stallions: 142/8 (20.0)

Empire State Titans won by 42 runs

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Varnell Tunnel Hill Road

Atlanta Param Veers: 236/5 (20.0)

Atlanta Fire: 231/4 (20.0)

Atlanta Param Veers won by 5 runs

Morgan Hill Sports Complex

Silicon Valley Strikers: 103/6 (20.0)

East Bay Blazers: 105/6 (19.1)

East Bay Blazers won by 4 wickets

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Varnell Tunnel Hill Road
Atlanta Param Veers: 244/9 (20.0)

Atlanta Fire: 234/7 (20.0)

Atlanta Param Veers won by 10 runs

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Idlewild Park

Empire State Titans: 179/8 (20.0)

New England Eagles: 154/4 (20.0)

Empire State Titans won by 25 runs

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McKinney Cricket Ground

Irving Mustangs: 139/9 (20.0)

Austin Athletics: 127/9 (20.0)

Irving Mustangs won by 12 runs

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Sunday 13th September

Evansburg Cricket Ground

DC Hawks 182/6 (20.0)

The Philadelphians: 152/8 (20.0)

DC Hawks won by 30 runs

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McKinney Cricket Ground

Irving Mustangs: 194/7 (20.0)

Houston Hurricanes: 119/10 (16.2)

Irving Mustangs won by 75 runs

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Morgan Hill Sports Complex

Golden State Grizzlies: 85/10 (20.0)

East Bay Blazers: 86/6 (18.5)

East Bay Blazers won by 4 wickets

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Keney Park

New Jersey Somerset Cavaliers CC: 208/6 (20.0)

New England Eagles: 151/5 (20.0)

New Jersey Somerset Cavaliers CC won by 57 runs

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Evansburg Cricket Ground

Empire State Titans: 191/7 (20.0)

DC Hawks: 192/5 (18.3)

DC Hawks won by 5 wickets

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More details on Minor League Cricket can be found here: https://www.majorleaguecricket.com/minorleaguecricket.

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