ICC Americas Regional T20, Indianapolis May 7, 2015

Canada still the class of the region

Five takeaways from the first round of 2015 ICC Americas Division One T20

Ruvindu Gunasekera's fifties have played a large part in Canada's success in the tournament © Peter Della Penna

Canada still the class of the region
Canada came to this event as favourites but looked shaky at times in their first two matches. Against USA their fielding was wretched, with four chances missed in the first five overs and another two later on. But when push comes to shove, they are still the most well-rounded outfit.

Their opening combo of Ruvindu Gunasekera and Rizwan Cheema has been the most productive of the four teams in Indianapolis. Gunasekera made fifties against Bermuda and USA, and while Cheema hasn't had a major score yet, he has done enough to intimidate bowling units, none more than USA against whom he smacked five boundaries in the first few overs of a simple chase.

Offspinner Nikhil Dutta has been a handful for every team and Canada used him to great effect by holding him back until after the tenth over to run through the middle and lower order. Canada also had solid balance with pace-bowler contributions on the slow wicket at World Sports Park as evidenced by Cecil Pervez's Man-of-the-Match performance against USA. It's hard to envision them being beaten in this tournament.

USA's makeshift batting order
Apart from Fahad Babar, currently the tournament's leading scorer with 144 runs, USA have not found consistency in the rest of their batsmen and part of that has to do with three different batting orders in three games. Steven Taylor shifted between No. 3 and opening but neither spot has sparked him to big scores. A top-three batsman in T20 cricket should ideally be scoring off 55-60% of his deliveries but the 21-year-old looks out of touch and has scored off just 43% (30/69 deliveries).

Akeem Dodson shuffled from opening to No. 3 to eight for a grand total of one run. Timil Patel batted at five against Bermuda and is one of the best middle-order batsmen in the country, but he was dropped to 10 against Canada, coming in for the final ball of the innings where he was bowled backing away from the stumps for a heave. Nicholas Standford and Adil Bhatti also shifted positions in the middle order.

The most bizarre decision, though, was captain Muhammad Ghous taking liberties with his newfound leadership position to bat at six, ahead of Mrunal Patel, Karan Ganesh, Dodson and Timil, who are all far better batsmen. Prior to Tuesday, Ghous had never batted any higher than nine for USA. If USA can't sort a consistent order with clearly defined roles for everyone, it does not bode well for their chances in Ireland and Scotland later this summer should they make it as far as the World T20 Qualifier.

USA's no pace v Canada's pace
Another selection issue for USA has centred on picking an all-spin attack against Canada. Hammad Shahid played against Bermuda and was dropped for fellow medium pacer Jasdeep Singh against Suriname, with neither taking a wicket. In a panicky move, both were ditched for the match against Canada as USA opted to bowl nothing but spin all innings in defence of their small total.

Only Timil has stood out as being exceptional in USA's spin attack, taking five wickets in three games with four of the batsmen out stumped. Timil is the only one who has consistently got the ball to rip past the outside edge while every other spinner has had little turn and instead opted to dart the ball in flat. It has been reasonably effective for Ghous and Ganesh but not the two left-arm spin options of Danial Ahmed and Barrington Bartley. Ahmed has been particularly poor, struggling to find his length and has tournament returns of 1 for 78.

Canada's variety, with Pervez opening and then coming back at the death to stifle USA with three wickets, was what won them the match on Tuesday. USA need to at least give one of the fast men a chance in the final three games to see what they can do and Ahmed should be the one to make way. Though this wicket may be on the slow side, there has to be some balance and if they qualify to go to Ireland and Scotland, they'll be playing on seaming wickets most of the way. Now is the time to figure out if Shahid or Jasdeep are good enough to be picked for that tour, not after they get there.

Bermuda in trouble once Hemp and Tucker retire
Current Bermuda captain Janeiro Tucker and former captain David Hemp are both into their 40s and well into the twilight of their careers, but part of the reason they are still around is that no one else is developing in Bermuda to push them out the door. If it wasn't for these two, Bermuda would have zero chance remaining of finishing in the top two for a qualification berth to Ireland and Scotland, but with them still around they have a fighting chance.

Between the two of them they have contributed 170 runs in three games. The rest of the Bermuda squad has scored a total of 124 runs. Bermuda have already slipped down the Associate ranks from their peak of 2005-2007 when they qualified and then participated in the 2007 World Cup. They are currently in Division Four of the World Cricket League and once these two finally retire Bermuda may drop down further, replicating the fall of Argentina. The South Americans suffered four consecutive last place finishes to be relegated from WCL Division Two in 2009 all the way to Division Six by 2013 and have subsequently dropped out of the structure altogether.

Suriname still experiencing growing pains
On the opening day of the tournament, Suriname's bowling unit gave Canada a real scare by holding them to just 121 for 8 in 20 overs. That could have been even better had Suriname not dropped multiple chances in the field, including Cheema on zero at the start of the match. The first morning has been the high point of Suriname's visit to Indianapolis thus far as things have quickly spiraled downhill since.

As a team, there have only been six times when a Suriname batsman has reached double-digits with the best score coming from Shazam Ramjohn, who made 24 against USA. The two most disappointing performances have come from captain Mohindra Boodram and allrounder Sauid Drepaul. Boodram has just 18 runs in three games while Drepaul has only 14. The pair was a catalyst for Suriname's 4-4 record two years ago, including a win over Bermuda, but this squad won't have any chance of success unless they begin to make significant contributions.

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna

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