A triumphant finale
The final day of the MLC Interstate Tournament saw the best of the US players facing their moment of truth against the select international teams from England and the West Indies. The Players' Associations from both countries had come up with two top-class teams, comprising Test cricketers and first-team players. These were the best international squads that USA players have faced in all their previous outings at ICC tournaments, and the 20/20 format was likely to be especially challenging since it left little room for error.
Given their complete lack of experience with international first-class cricket, nobody had expected the USA teams to win in their first foray into this level of international competition. But the USA teams performed far better than any one had expected. The top scorer in the matches was USA player Sushil Nadkarni (Texas), and several USA bowlers matched the best performances of the international squads. The greater depth of the England and West Indies squads ultimately prevailed, however.
The final day was also a triumph of sorts for MLC and the Broward County. Several thousand spectators, many who had never seen a cricket match before, showed up for the paid final day events, and the event was covered on radio and TV. All in all, this was the best-attended and publicized national cricket event in the USA this year, and an encouraging start for MLC's future activities in US cricket in 2006.
PCA Masters 125 for 7 (Gareth Clough 40, Darren Bicknell 39, Bardan Chalise 3-23 Mehul Dave 2-21) beat MLC USA 81 for 6 (Phani Chitneni 24, Bardan Chalise 19*, Jim Hindson 3-15) by 44 runs
The day's first exhibition 20/20 kicked off with England PCA Masters, in their blue and red PCA uniforms, facing the MLC USA squad. A tight opening spell, especially by captain Mehul Dave, and superb fielding, kept the English batsmen in check. Dave ended the innings with 2 for 21 but the pick of the bowling was young Bardan Chalise. The left-arm spinner managed to turn the ball and beat several of the English batsmen. Wicketkeeper Arnab Mitra provided able support to Chalise, catching Paul Nixon and stumping Darren Bicknell. The visitors went on to score 125 for 6 in their 20 overs.
MLC USA started off with a bang as Phani Chitneni and Sundaragopalan drove, pulled and lofted the English bowlers for an opening partnership of 32 in just over five overs. Then wickets fell on a regular interval until Bardan Chalise got into the act. Chitneni top scored for the USA, making a breezy 24. Chalise remained unbeaten with a well made 19.
WIPA 105 for 5 (Ridley Jacobs 28, Jimmy Adams 20, Vinod Shankar 2-16) beat MLC Texas 99 for 5 (Sushil Nadkarni 42, Amir Nanjee 17*) by six runs
The exhibition game in the afternoon was a nail biter. WIPA batted first against National Champions Texas, putting up a fighting total of 105 for 5. Stuart Williams and Sherwin Campbell opened the batting, but both were quickly dismissed by Vinod Shankar. Ridley Jacobs and Jimmy Adams then put their heads down and began the task of rebuilding the innings. This was a daunting task as the Texas ground fielding was fabulous. Jacobs was run out on 28 and shortly afterwards Adams was run out by an excellent direct hit by Amir Nanjee from deep-backward square leg. Keith Arthurton's innings was cut short by a spectacular diving catch on the long-on boundary line by Vinod Shankar.
MLC Texas started slowly as Sushil Nadkarni and Owen Brown concentrated on watching and getting in line with the ball. Nadkarni continued his form from the National Interstate cup with elegant strokes all over the ground. Brown and captain Niraj Shah fell in quick succession, but Shane Ford and later, Amir Nanjee partnered with Nadkarni. Colin Croft had Nadkarni top edge a skier into the safe hands of Adams. Nanjee continued to score from the other end, but MLC Texas managed to make only three of the nine runs required in the last over.