July 17, 2001

Awesome triumph for men of the Maple Leaf

Canada is a land of many races, many ethnic groups and therefore many languages. But it took local captain Joe Harris just one word to sum up his reaction to his team's emotional five wicket victory over Scotland in the World Cup Qualifying Final here in Toronto today and everyone still knew exactly what he meant.

"Awesome."

Canada's history already includes participation in one World Cup, of course. But that was a long 22 years ago and cricket in this country has not touched the same heights since. Until today.

This was a dominant performance, set up through the early stages by the accurate bowling of Sanjay Thuraisingham (5/25) and a cast of three hard-working spin bowlers as they joined to restrict the Scots to a modest 176/9. It was then sealed, ultimately with more than ten overs to spare, by means of a solid and consistent effort from Canada's upper and middle order batsmen.

Jubilation for Canada, desolation for Scotland. It was another interesting day - the last - at this 2001 ICC Trophy tournament.

"The boys were unbelievable today and I couldn't have asked for anything better," beamed Harris.

"The bowlers gave us a very good start so that it was comfortable for us going in to bat and we could finish it off well; it was a great day altogether.

"This will open doors for all the youngsters who aspire to play cricket at a good level here. The possibilities (from this outcome) are endless, really; hopefully, it will help cricket in North America - both the US and Canada - really grow."

This was not a game with a sting in the tail; it never caused the biting of nails; it wasn't even a match of two halves. But, while the clichés weren't applicable and the excitement of a close finish was never on the cards, there was more than enough to satisfy a partisan, noisy and seemingly ever-building crowd that gathered here at the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club.

The cheers as opener Ishwar Maraj (50) and hard-hitting number three Desmond Chumney (36) carried the Canadians to within sight of the target were raucous in themselves. And, when Joe Harris (35), Ian Billcliff (23) and Nicholas Degroot (19*) joined to finish things off, they became close to deafening.

Already a near-distant memory by then was the Scots' struggle toward their meagre-looking scoreline and their failure to honour captain George Salmond's decision to bat first after winning the toss. But it was clearly the opening fifty overs of this match upon which Canada's victory was based.

Around a gritty century partnership for the fourth wicket between Drew Parsons (48) and Salmond (43) himself, the clatter of three quick wickets at the start of the innings and then the rapid disappearance of another trio of batsmen in the middle stages scuttled the Scots' best-laid plans of constructing a big total. Each of those two batsmen played well, especially through the off side, but there was little in the way of appropriate support. As they swung out in the death throes of the innings, Craig Wright (25) and John Blain (14) were the only other players to venture into double figures.

On the whole, the Canadians' bowling was mightily impressive. After a heavy overnight downpour that caused a 45 minute delay to the scheduled starting time, the outfield here was not its usually blindingly quick self and the pitch did not always play as truly as it has done in earlier games. But full credit needed be given to the majority of the attack: the line was unerring and the length precise for the vast bulk of the innings.

Thuraisingham set the tone early - before ultimately adding two more wickets to his personal haul in the final over of the innings - but left arm spinner Barry Seebaran (0/22) and off break bowler John Davison (1/34) were also in superb touch. As it has been throughout this tournament, Seebaran's control was near-impeccable albeit that he went without claiming a wicket. Though he has rarely introduced himself as a bowler in recent times, the off spin of Harris (2/28) also proved effective on a surface receptive to both bounce and turn.

With its win, Canada joins the Netherlands and Namibia as the three World Cup qualifiers from this event. If anyone was looking for any more positives from three weeks of cricket that have brought pleasure to everyone who has witnessed them, then it's worth noting the continental spread of the trio. This has been a great event for the Americas in particular; the performance of Namibia has fuelled Africa's sense of anticipation; and, despite Scotland's heartbreaking loss today, Europe will still be well represented. Bring on the world.

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