New Zealand v USA, The Oval, Pool A September 10, 2004

USA enjoy their outing

The Wisden Verdict by Daniel Brigham



Jacob Oram's five wickets set up New Zealand's biggest one-day victory, by 210 runs © Getty Images

Richard Staple, prior to captaining the USA against New Zealand, had dismissed the idea that their involvement in the Champions Trophy wouldn't register a single flicker on the consciousness of the American people. "We have been assured by politicians and local administrators that they will take an interest on what goes on here," he said. He had better hope that they forgot to tune in today because, if the British hate drawing attention to themselves, then the Americans hate losing. They're not used to it, and they don't do it well. Today at The Oval, however, they lost spectacularly well to New Zealand.

If the result was predictable, and the main instigator of the result - Nathan Astle - was also predictable, so was the lack of Americana off the pitch. The best source of it was the hot-dogs on sale from the food vans. The closest to an American in the press box was a mischievous thought of turning the televisions over to an episode of Cheers.

On the pitch, all things American appeared to be enjoying their time in front of a small crowd dotted around the stands. The USA's surprising win over Zimbabwe in a warm-up match gave them confidence and, unfortunately for the underdogs, probably erased any overconfidence that may have been creeping into the New Zealand dressing-room. Whether their shock victory said more about Zimbabwe cricket than the American ability to adapt to a game that isn't built around advertising breaks was irrelevant. If Zimbabwe deserve to be competing in a trophy involving the world's top cricket nations, then so do the USA.

One man happy to be at The Oval at all was Tony Reid, who had been caught up in Hurricane Frances in Florida and at one stage had looked unlikely to make it to England. So he wouldn't have been too perturbed by the heavy rain that delayed the start of the match for an hour, leaving the outfield so soggy that if someone had wanted to test the surface with their car keys, a la Geoff Boycott, they would have been taking the train home. To Reid, these conditions would have been like playing on concrete compared to the rain-battered surfaces of Florida, and he was the pick of the American bowlers today. Although never getting above medium-pace - he made Jacob Oram look blisteringly fast - he was tidy, and used the damp conditions well. He deserved the first wicket of Stephen Fleming, who carelessly lofted the ball to extra cover.

When Hamish Marshall fell to Leon Romero, New Zealand were 43 for 2 and, if there had been anyone American in the crowd, they'd probably have been as shocked as seeing their basketball team humiliated at the Olympics. The American dressing-room might even have been making calls to politicians and local administrators. Unfortunately, that was as good as it got for the US of A. However, they shouldn't be - and probably won't be - too disheartened about the result. They may well be patronised in the headlines, but they are worth more than that. Put them in a tournament with Kenya, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and they might just spring a few surprises.

Daniel Brigham is a staff writer with The Wisden Cricketer magazine.