America gets its miracle on the cricket field with monumental T20 World Cup win over Pakistan | Crickit
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America gets its miracle on the cricket field with monumental T20 World Cup win over Pakistan

By, New Delhi
Jun 07, 2024 12:44 PM IST

The whole point of the World Cup was try and find an audience for cricket in the USA. Perhaps they'll find it now

The Americans know a thing or two about miracles. A generation grew up reading stories of Seabiscuit beating the mighty War Admiral in 1938. In one of the most anticipated sporting events of the 20th century, a lazy, untrainable horse from the West coast was taking on an aristocratic, almost unbeatable horse from the established East coast.

Players of United States celebrate after their win against Pakistan.(AP)
Players of United States celebrate after their win against Pakistan.(AP)

The legendary Grantland Rice, reporting on the race, had written: "A little horse with the heart of a lion and the flying feet of a gazelle yesterday proved his place as the gamest thoroughbred that ever faced over an American track."

Racing immortality to some, a miracle to others.

In 1950, there was perhaps an even crazier event. The United States, whose odds to win the football World Cup were 500-1, shocked the No. 1 team in the world, England, thanks to a header by Joe Gaetjans in the thirty-seventh minute for a 1-0 win.

Then, at the height of cold war, a bunch of American amateurs beat the greatest ice hockey players in the world (from Russia) at the 1980 Olympics in a match now remembered as 'The Miracle on Ice'. The Sports Illustrated cover for that iconic moment had no headline. As photographer Heinz Kluetmeier told Richard Deitsch in 2008, "It didn't need it. Everyone in America knew what happened."

And on Thursday, in a little corner of Dallas, on a ground where they once played baseball, the United States cricket team scripted a miracle that will resound almost as loudly as some of these moments above. A country, largely ignorant of the sport, may not accord it the same status now but perhaps one day they will. Nay, they must.

Pakistan have made giving wings to the dreams of other nations in World Cups a habit of sorts. Bangladesh and Ireland can attest to the fact and now so can the United States of America. Babar Azam's team are a mercurial lot, but they have reached at least the semi-final stage in six of the eight men's T20 World Cups, including finishing runners-up in the most recent tournament in Australia in 2022.

So to beat them, USA needed more than luck or a lethargic opposition. They needed to do some winning of their own and they did exactly that in a match that went down to the proverbial wire and then some.

Pakistan, batting first, struggled to reach 159/7 against a disciplined attack. Saurabh Netravalkar claimed 2/18 in his four overs, Nosthush Kenjige go 3/30 and the rest did enough to restrict to a manageable total.

But with Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf, Pakistan had an attack high on quality. Could the USA team made up of inviduals from India, Pakistan, South Africa and the West Indies hold its own?

Clearly, they could. USA had won T20Is against Bangladesh and Ireland before but this was a heavyweight. The hosts weren't overawed though.

“In the huddle we talked about how there’s no pressure for us, all of the pressure is in front of Pakistan," said US skipper Monank Patel. "We knew that we didn’t have all the support from the crowd, Pakistan had more in the crowd. I thought if we played good cricket that would backfire on them and they’d be more under pressure."

Patel was right. For a while, Pakistan seemed dazed in the middle -- there was no intensity; there was no fear. USA got off to a steady start, reaching 100 for the loss of just one wicket. But the Pakistan pace battery kicked into high gear around this point.

The gap between runs and balls started growing but each time it got to a point where it might have become two big to close, USA would respond with a four or a six. Aaron Jones, who had played a blinder against Cananda, was on hand to play a vital 36 off 26 balls. Earlier, Patel had got a brilliant 50 off 38 balls.

Allied with a 14-run last over from Rauf, these contributions were enough to take the match into a Super Over.

This is where Pakistan's inconsistency came to the fore yet again. An 18-run over by Amir, which included three wides, made it a difficult ask and then Netravalkar bowled a brilliant last over to win it all. The record books will state this was a five-run win but the true impact is unmeasurable.

“I think we are not worried about what people are saying, we know what capability we have and we just focus on the particular game,” the USA captain said after the match. “We don’t want to keep our emotions too high or too low, we’ll enjoy the win today and make sure that the next day we come fresh.

“Before the tournament I said that we want to focus on one game at a time, and our focus will be on playing against India now. We don’t even want to think about Ireland right now, so the Super 8 is far ahead, we just want to focus on one game at a time.”

The whole point of the World Cup was try and find an audience in the USA. And as history has shown us, there is no better hook than a miracle; a miracle on the cricket field.

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