Canada survive Kenjige hat-trick to level series at 1-1

Canada 205 for 5 (Wijeratne 59, Zafar 41*, Kenjige 3-30) beat USA 202 (Timil 79, Ahmadzai 3-32) by five wickets

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 CC to level the three-match series at one-all.

Wijeratne made 59 off 69 balls and helped Canada race out to a Powerplay score of 70 for 0 chasing a target of 203 before USA fought back furiously with four wickets in four balls across the 22nd and 23rd overs. Wijeratne was the first victim in Nosthush Kenjige‘s hat-trick during that remarkable sequence but Saad Bin Zafar and Dhanuka Pathirana weathered USA’s spin bowling storm to grind out an unbroken 92-run stand for the sixth wicket to take the hosts home with seven balls to spare.

Left-arm spinner Kenjige had taken the new ball at the start of the chase operating with two slips and a silly mid off around the bat. 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 Roy Silva slowed Canada down with a maiden in the 11th and the pressure resulted in the wicket of Nitish Kumar for 37 in Silva’s next over, caught flicking to mid-on.

Wijeratne kept cruising along and brought up his half-century off 55 balls by driving Timil Patel through cover for his ninth boundary. He added another 38 for the second wicket with Usman Limbada before Limbada walked through a lazy flick against Timil Patel and was stumped for 13 to end the 22nd over.

The wicket was the first act of a dramatic interlude in the middle of the Canada innings as Kenjige, who began his second spell in the 19th over, struck on the next three balls to bring the chase alive. Wijeratne defended down the wrong line to an arm ball and Navneet Dhaliwal fell prey to the same trap on the next delivery two successful lbw appeals from Kenjige. Having seen what happened on the previous two balls while watching from the team tent, Rizwan Cheema played well inside the line of a ball pitching on middle stump expecting another arm ball only to see it spin into off stump to complete Kenjige’s hat-trick.

Zafar and Pathirana arrived in the wake of Kenjige’s carnage and focused their efforts on seeing off the rest of his spell. Beginning with his hat-trick over, Kenjige gave up just six runs in his final seven overs while bowling four maidens. However, once both he and Timil had bowled out their quota, the batting pair eased through the rest of the chase as the pitch flattened under the afternoon sun.

Neither batsman offered a genuine chance the rest of the way. The closest USA came to ending the stand were through a pair of slashed edges by Zafar off Ali Khan in the 46th over that beat Khaleel behind the stumps to go for consecutive boundaries. Pathirana struck the winning boundary with one ball to go in the 49th courtesy of a misfield by Camilus Alexander at mid-on.

Pathirana then enacted a bizarre celebration by running straight to Alexander at mid-on, before bending over to shake his rear end at Alexander, then stood upright again while gesturing to the name on the back of his jersey. While Alexander laughed it off, the display appeared to have rankled several other USA players 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 showdown between USA and Canada at ICC WCL Division Three in Uganda this past May. Both men field at slip and have been in each other’s ears whenever the other arrives to the crease to bat. Their verbal sparring has added extra spice to the rivalry leading into Thursday’s series decider.

Not only was Kenjige’s hat-trick in vain, but so was a USA career-best 79 off 86 balls from Timil. The legspinning allrounder used to open the batting for Gujarat in the Ranji Trophy before migrating to the USA but during his time with his adopted homeland he has mostly occupied a spot in the lower order while focusing on his bowling.

Timil’s previous best for USA in 50-over cricket coming into the match was 39 against Nepal at 2014 WCL Division Three, but he more than doubled it in the process of digging USA out of a major hole having arrived at the crease with his side 74 for 5 in 23 overs. Debutant left-arm spinner Shahid Ahmadzai took 3 for 32 to tie down the visitors early. They were 159 for 8 before Timil and Kenjige added an innings best 43-run stand to carry USA into the final over.

Timil skipped down the pitch to loft Zafar’s spin for six and four early in the over before a third attempt resulted in a stumping. Zafar struck again two balls later to claim the final wicket on the last ball of the innings to end with 2 for 36, the first part of a solid all-round display before teaming with Pathirana to take Canada across the line in the chase.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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