Cricket 19: North Western Hemisphere Test Championship – American… AmeriCan’t!

By the time USA, having won the toss and chosen to bat reached 41 without loss, our frustration was growing. We’d conceded unnecessary overthrows and failed to review an LBW shout that would’ve gone in our favour. Eventually Stuart Broad delivered the pink orb on target with the stumps before they too lit up a shade of pink, fluorescent pink. What the Edgbaston faithful made of such modern gimmicks one can only wonder! The wonderfully named John-James Morrison’s knock of 12 was double his Test average but his end meant that Stuart Trujillo, averaging north of fifty, strode to the crease. Moeen Ali soon put the paid to those numbers however. After a difficult game in Canada, Moeen was on the mark straight away. Jonny Bairstow, who hadn’t exactly covered himself in glory upto that point in the innings, claimed a sharp catch to remove Trujillo. Replays were inconclusive as to whether or not the left-hander’s bat actually connected with the ball. Following the LBW reprieve earlier in proceedings, maybe we could call it evens. The anticipation of precipitation then proved correct. Sky water descended with USA 57-2.

By the time the heavens opened for a second time, the visitors had reached 73 still only two wickets down. Then, after James Anderson completed his over, Sam Curran struck with the first delivery of his. Martin Potter (45) was the victim, trapped LBW. Potter had benefited from a few overthrows early in his innings but cast a spell on our bowlers, displaying the sort of wizardry that his namesake Harry would’ve been proud of. The interruptions in play may have unsettled him and contributed to his demise.

Next man Tahla Pittman struggled against Curran from the get go and was soon excellently caught and bowled for 6 off a leading edge by the Surrey teenager. Curran then sent Jackson North south for a duck, rearranging his timber in the same over. Another left-armer, the recalled Liam Dawson then snaffled Henry Wilks for just 1. Dawson was benefiting from the long term injury absence of the unfortunate Jack Leach. The wicket was courtesy of more sharp work behind the stumps from Bairstow after he and Daws had already gone close in the same over. The baton then passed back to Curran who outed Ayan Jeffries (14) as the American procession continued at pace. Shaurya Napier (4) was next to have his woodwork remodelled as Curran claimed a second five-wicket haul in as many matches. After some brief resistance James Anderson terminated Rufus Suarez’s 29-ball vigil on 5 before Asher Kennedy (4 from 47) and Niall Kerr (14 not out) dug in to haul the Americans to 113. Fittingly, it was young Curran who claimed the final wicket of the innings not long after the floodlights had been switched on. It had been an outstanding effort by our bowling attack after USA had reached 77-2 only to lose eight wickets for just 36 runs. Our spinners dried up the runs (Moeen 8-5-4-1/Dawson 8-3-8-1) but it was Curran (6-26) who was on fire for the second Test in a row. Take out the overthrows and USA wouldn’t have even reached three digits.

Buoyed by their performances in the previous match, our opening combo of Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed had reached 70 without loss when Burns drove gloriously through the covers for four. The very next ball however he pushed at a Rufus Suarez delivery that was a bit straighter and pitched up resulting in a nick to the ‘keeper. Replays suggested that the ball didn’t carry but in truth it was a poor shot and Burns’ innings was extinguished. Like Burns, Ben Duckett looked set for a big score but dragged onto his stumps having amassed 23 to leave us 111-2, two runs from parity.

Hameed went onto record his first fifty of the competition and at the close of play on a rain affected first day, had helped guide us to 159-2, a lead of 46.

Following further sky streams on the second day, the start of play was delayed by over an hour. A shortened session though it was, Hameed and Root played low risk cricket against a disciplined bowling unit and improved field placings to progress to inversions of each other’s score, 83 & 38 respectively.

Hameed would go on to register an emotional maiden Test hundred. There were surely times when the Lancastrian thought another opportunity at the highest level wouldn’t present itself but having been given the chance he’s made the most of it.

Hameed and Root compiled a partnership of 123 before the skipper was out caught behind off the bowling of Jackson North. The fall of a wicket came as a surprise to everybody but credit to North for a probing delivery. Having reached fifty exactly, I know that Joe was disappointed not to kick on and emulate Hameed’s efforts.

Like Burns and Duckett before him, Jos Buttler looked in insatiable touch (Not surprising after his ton in Canada), effortlessly reaching 30 from only 23 deliveries before falling to Pittman. Buttler made a horrible misjudgement, leaving a delivery that pitched in the rough and spun back in. Moeen Ali continued the trend of looking in excellent rhythm and soon after the illuminations had been turned on, headed off to tea alongside Hameed who was just one shy of 150.

Following the interval and having added 94 with Moeen, Hameed finally fell for a marvellous 154 from 189 deliveries. It was an epic innings that should serve as the template for our top order batsmen.

Jonny Bairstow (23) also got a start but the thinnest of edges saw him caught behind off the bowling of Pittman. Before long Moeen brought up a majestically mastered hundred but Sam Curran (16) was caught and bowled by the persistent if inconsistent Jackson North. Immediately after bludgeoning the premier six of the match, Moeen (125) was caught off a full toss off the bowling of Asher Kennedy. We declared on 493-8, a lead of 380 runs and welcomed the visitors to bat again under lights late on day two.

A word again though for messrs Hameed and Moeen. Hameed built on the starts he’d made in the previous match and was unaffected by any wickets that fell around him. He didn’t just pass 100 either, he went big! Moeen was assertive but measured. He struck some stunning boundaries but worked the gaps too. The rest of our batting order, all of whom made starts, should learn from their peers.

We were unable to claim a wicket in the five overs before close and lost over an hour to the showers again at the start of day three. By lunch however James Anderson had dismissed first innings top scorer Martin ‘The Wizard’ Potter for just 4. There’d be no magic shows from him this time. Abracadabra!

JJ Morrison defended stoically (And at times painfully!) meanwhile Stuart Trujillo took the attack to our… attack and was undefeated on 37 when the kettles were boiled.

JJ Morrison’s resistance soon came to an end. Thoroughly worked over by Moeen, he was put out of his misery when his stumps were demolished and his torturous 78-ball 9 was over. Jeffries (14) hung around but was out to Broad before Moeen thought he had Pittman LBW second ball but the decision was correctly overturned. Moeen kept his head up though and terminated top-scorer Trujillo’s bold knock of 75. Liam Dawson then got in on the act and deservedly so. Tahla Pittman was the victim, nicking behind on 21 when you could smell that tea was ready! USA sat down for their platters on a respectable 135-5 but still a mammoth 245 runs in the red.

In the final session, Stuart Broad knocked over the American batting line-up like the proverbial deck of cards. Sadly for the visitors, it was Broad who held the ace up his sleeve! Wilks (8), North (26), Napier (4) and Kennedy for a golden duck were all victims as Broad claimed 5-50 as a result of some high class bowling. Moeen Ali claimed the other remaining wicket to finish with fabulous figures of 3-45 from 16 overs of consistent probing. it was an excellent response in the face of criticism from some quarters following his performance in Canada. Jonny Bairstow added five more victims in the innings to what now stands as a tournament topping tally of 22.

In the end the margin of victory was a whopping innings and 209 runs. Credit to the USA who stuck to task with the ball and improved second time around with willow but it was never going to be enough against our most complete performance so far.

Scotland remain top of the tree after thrashing the Dutch. A Kyle Coetzer century and yet more wickets for Mark Watt paved the way for a win.

Next up for us we entertain Ireland at Old Trafford. Like us they’ve won two matches and lost one so it’s a huge game as we try to stay within sight of the Scots. Look out for our squad announcement tomorrow afternoon.

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