USA beat Canada in a tense rain-affected low-scoring affair to win the 2011 ICC Americas U19 Championship. Congratulations are due to the entire USA U19 team and its coach, Robin Singh, for winning this tournament with a convincing 5-0 record.
Morning rain delayed the start of play to noon which made it a 36 over match. USA won the toss and decided to bat, only the second time that they have done so in this tournament, and managed to get to 143 for 8 in 36 overs. Taylor (21) and Mirza (29) put on 37 for the first wicket in 8 overs but the middle order failed leaving USA in trouble at 93 for 7. Pranay (34) and Hamad (17) took the score to 121 with a vital partnership when Pranay departed and Hamad did well in the company of tail-ender Mital Patel to get to 143 for 8. This was a low score but still could be defended if pressure could be put on the Canadians when they batted.
The Canadians started sedately and put on 32 runs for the first wicket and thanks to a 50 run partnership between Edghill and Ali got the score to 91 for 2 in 26 overs leaving 60 balls to get 52 runs. The pressure got to the Canadians as they played poor shots to some inspired tight bowling and lost wickets at regular intervals to find themselves short by 23 runs in 34.2 overs. It should be said that the Canadian side that US will see in Ireland will be stronger as it will have three players who are currently playing for the senior Canadian side in the upcoming 2011 ICC World Cup in the subcontinent.
USA bowled quite well to defend the low total highlighting their strength in bowling with Hamad and Ahmad leading from the front and the rest supporting them well. However, the American batting has to be a worry as they think about the next round. It is clear that they need solidity in the middle order if they are to compete successfully from here on as sides they will see will be much more competitive than were encountered in the Americas tournament. The American fielding also was spotty -- a few catches were spilled and Taylor wasn't at his sharpest behind the stumps. This is another area that needs to be looked at and improved considerably. As far as batting is concerned, Pranay Suri, batting for the first time in this tournament despite his considerable performances this year, may have been a revelation to some at USACA. Folks in the west coast know not only of Pranay's cricketing talent but of others, currently languishing in reserves, who would bring much needed batting depth and solidity to the side.
When all is said and done, US has a good chance to go to the WC 2012 U19 tournament. They need finish in the top six in Ireland but for that to happen, they need to make sure that they send the best side for the global qualifiers to deal with challenging conditions and strong opposition. This almost never happens in US cricket mostly because "quid pro quos" dominate how USACA goes about selecting teams. Unless this changes and changes significantly, there is very little hope that the best sides will play and put their best foot forward.
We owe it to our cricketers, young and not-so-young, and to US cricket fans, to select the best teams based on talent and performance without assorted biases and preferences that have very little to do with real cricket. Will that happen? Time will tell and you and I can make a difference by helping elect the right folks in local, regional and national elections.