USA 144 for 5 (Silva 38*, Abdullah 32, Pervez 2-41) beat Canada 141 (Wijeratne 29, Silva 4-32, Hutchinson 3-27) by five wickets
Roy Silva produced a superb all-round show on his USA debut, taking 4 for 32 before following it up with an unbeaten 38 off 36 balls to propel the visitors past Canada by five wickets at Maple Leaf CC in the first one-dayer of the three-match Auty Cup series. The result means USA is one win away from reclaiming the Auty Cup for the first time since 1991.
USA sent Canada in on a dewy morning in Toronto and bowled out the hosts for 141 in just 40.3 overs through a disciplined bowling effort supported by consistently aggressive field settings from new captain Ibrahim Khaleel, who was leading the side for the first time. Elmore Hutchinson knocked over Canada's top three, teaming with wicketkeeper Khaleel on all three dismissals, including the prize wicket of captain Nitish Kumar to leave the hosts 49 for 3 in the 12th over.
But it was Silva who stole the show with the ball, scything through the middle order with his medium pace cutters. After he struck in each of his first two overs to make it 55 for 5 in the 21st, Khaleel put in place three slips and two gullies as part of a 9-0 field, daring the Canada batsmen to play across the line for runs on the empty leg side. It paid off as Dhanuka Pathirana, who tormented USA at Division Three in Uganda this past May with a gritty 87 in Canada's 96-run win, sliced a cut in Silva's third over to Abdullah Syed at gully for 2 to make it 63 for 6.
"I thought the wicket had some help for fast bowlers and I thought we were bowling in terrific areas," Khaleel said after the match when asked about the aggressive field placements, in particular the vacant leg side field. "Because they lost three quick wickets, I said why not one more wicket here. It doesn't matter if they hit one six or two sixes or five sixes. I was ready to give it to them.
"I wanted them to play across and I was challenging them and I wanted to see whether they could do it. It was very very clear that they could not do it. I just kept attacking, never wanted to lose that grip on them and I think it paid off."
Silva's haul was partly a function of the pressure being built at the opposite end by Japen Patel, who had figures of 4-2-2-0 at the start of his second spell bowling in tandem with Silva. Japen finally got a deserved wicket when Dilon Heyliger dragged his back foot out attempting a drive, with Khaleel lightning quick behind the stumps to whip the bails off for his fourth and most impressive dismissal of the day to make it 78 for 7.
Canada's last realistic hope of a defendable total rested on the shoulders of big-hitting Rizwan Cheema but he was fooled by a slower ball from Silva five balls later to be bowled for 17. Canada's tail wagged with a 49-run partnership between Saad Bin Zafar and Satsimranjit Dhindsa but spinners Nosthush Kenjige and Timil Patel eventually accounted for both to end the innings with nearly ten overs unused.
After the early setback of Sagar Patel caught behind for 1 in the second over, Abdullah Syed teamed with Khaleel for a 45-run stand. Syed, who earned a recall for the Auty Cup after an impressive 68 for USA in an exhibition T20 against St Kitts & Nevis Patriots last month, struck three fours and a six in his 32 off 43 before he played over the top of a pull to Zafar and was bowled to make it 51 for 2.
Canada continued to claw away as Cecil Pervez struck in his second spell with a full delivery to trap Camilus Alexander lbw for 13. In a rare misstep on the day for Silva, he ran out the well-set Khaleel for 26 with a poor call taking on Kumar's arm at midwicket shortly after coming to the crease. He survived a chance at slip shelled by Cheema on 12 as well but settled down to see USA the rest of the way, bashing four fours and two sixes, including the winning boundary through midwicket to seal victory with 59 balls to spare.
The win was all the more impressive considering USA did it without three of their CPL-contracted stars - Steven Taylor, Timroy Allen and Akeem Dodson - who were all in the starting XI when Canada thumped USA in Uganda. All three were left out of the Auty Cup squad as part of six overall changes in what a team source described before the series as an effort "to change team culture and reward players who show commitment to want to play for USA."
"Win or lose, it doesn't matter," Khaleel said. "It's all about what kind of attitude you have in the ground. I think If you have the right attitude, you give yourself a better chance to win and that's what we are looking for. Keep it simple, just stick to your plans and let's see how it goes from there. If we win great, if we don't we are still fine with it because at least we know that we have the potential in this team and slowly we can work towards it and probably have better results in the future."
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna