USA’s quest to reclaim the Auty Cup for the first time in 26 years will come down to the series deciding third match after Srimantha Wijeratne’s half-century laid the platform for Canada to secure a five-wicket win at Maple Leaf Cricket Club on Wednesday.
Wijeratne made 59 off 69 balls and helped Canada race to a Powerplay score of 70 for 0 chasing a target of 203 before USA fought back with a hat-trick from 26-year old left-arm spinner Nosthush Kenjige. Wijeratne was the first, followed by Navneet Dhaliwal and Rizwan Cheema. The three batsmen fell off the first three balls of the 23rd over, which followed on the heels of Timil Patel dismissing Usman Limbada off the last delivery of the 22nd.
USA’s four wickets in four balls however couldn’t shift the balance decisively enough as Saad Bin Zafar and Dhanuka Pathirana ground out an unbroken 92-run stand for the sixth wicket to take the hosts home with seven balls to spare.
Kenjige had taken the new ball in the chase, operating with two slips and a silly mid-off. But Wijeratne dismantled that plan by smashing a pair of fours over mid-on followed by two more boundaries through cover in a 16-run second over and Kenjige was quickly removed from the attack. Canada coasted through the rest of the Powerplay scoring at seven an over before seamer Roy Silva slowed things down with a maiden in the 11th and then took out Nitish Kumar for 37 in the 13th. Unperturbed, Wijeratne brought up his half-century off 55 balls, driving Timil through cover for his ninth boundary. He added another 38 for the second wicket with Limbada before the partnership was broken, leading to the most dramatic portion of the match.
Kenjige, who began his second spell in the 19th over, struck off the first three balls of the 23rd. Wijeratne defended down the wrong line to an arm ball, Dhaliwal fell prey to the same trap and, having seen the left-arm spinner’s tactics from the team tent, Cheema played well inside the line of a delivery pitching on middle stump. Only this time it spun away to take the off stump. The hat-trick was sealed and Kenjige finished his spell conceding only six runs in his last seven overs, with four maidens.
Nosthush Kenjige sprints away after bowling Rizwan Cheema to complete a hat-trick Peter Della Penna Canada’s two new batsmen, Zafar and Pathirana, were content to see him off , and then increased their tempo as the pitch flattened out under the afternoon sun.
The closest USA came to ending the stand was in the 46th over, when Zafar slashed at Ali Khan and the resulting outside edge raced past the wicketkeeper for consecutive boundaries. Pathirana struck the winning runs with one ball to go in the 49th, a misfield by Camilus Alexander at mid-on letting the ball reach the rope.
Pathirana then enacted a bizarre celebration by running straight to Alexander at mid-on, shook his backside at Alexander and finally stood up to gesture at the name on the back of his jersey. While Alexander laughed it off, his team-mates appeared quite rankled during post-game handshakes, including Silva, who played under Pathirana’s captaincy when the two were together at Colts Cricket Club in Sri Lanka’s domestic first-class tournament in 2009.
The war of words between Alexander and Pathirana has been ongoing since the ICC WCL Division Three tournament in May. Both men field at slip and have been in each other’s ears at every chance. Their verbal sparring has added extra spice to the USA-Canada rivalry leading into Thursday’s series decider.
In the face of such drama, it was nearly forgotten that Timil whacked a career-best 79 off 86 balls – doubling his previous highest score for USA in 50-over cricket – to bail the team out. They were 74 for 5 in 23 overs and then 159 for 8 in the 45th but managed to push their innings until the final ball of their allotment. Kenjige had helped here as well, playing second fiddle in a 43-run ninth-wicket stand.