Fast bowler Amjad Khan has dedicated Denmark's four-wicket win over USA on Wednesday at WCL Division Four to captain Michael Pedersen, who left Los Angeles to go back to Denmark on Tuesday night after receiving word that his mother had been involved in an accident.
"It's a win that we'd like to dedicate to Michael really because he had to go home for family reasons," Amjad told ESPNcricinfo after the win. "It's something that affected us all and it's our captain that we lost so we wanted to win for him. We haven't really lost to the US in [50-over] tournament cricket so we were quite confident going into it. But for us it was to make sure that now that Michael is home, we do right by him and we dedicate this win to him."
It was a significant bounce back win for Denmark after losing to previously winless Bermuda by 38 runs on Tuesday. A day later, they handed the tournament hosts their first loss - Denmark's sixth straight win over USA in one-day cricket at ICC tournaments dating back to 2001 - thanks in large part to a brilliant bowling effort spearheaded by Amjad, the former England Test representative.
Amjad's ability to achieve reverse swing in his final four overs at the death resulted in 1 for 12 during that spell and overall figures of 1 for 35 in ten overs. At the other end, Aftab Ahmed bowled a magnificent final over into the wind with a 55-yard straight boundary at his back, taking 3 for 1 off the last six balls to hold USA to 261 for 9. Over the course of the final four overs, Denmark bowled 13 dot balls including the wickets while restricting USA to 17 runs, which gave them a huge lift heading into the innings break according to Amjad.
"We're pretty clear on our death plans and it's something we work really well on," Amjad said. "We've got a quartet of seamers and all of us have done a lot of death bowling. If you're bowling at the death and you hit your areas, it doesn't really matter how big the boundary is. I think Aftab and myself we just took the boundaries out of it and just executed our skill.
"I think we hit our yorkers really well and held the pace back on the right occasions. I think that was really the background for our success there. It's the first time we've been really tested at the death and it was great to see the boys executing our skills really well."
Though USA entered the final four overs at 244 for 6, they struggled to get a big partnership going throughout the day. USA's best stand was produced by Nicholas Standford and Timroy Allen who added 77 runs for the sixth wicket. Amjad says Denmark's ability to disrupt partnerships throughout the day to prevent momentum from building was also a significant factor in the win and it allowed them to get off to an aggressive start in their chase.
"We thought they could have got 30 more," Amjad said. "We were excellent at the death but we never felt they got away from us. We were always getting wickets. Everyone chipped in at the right times and we did feel 260 was gettable. Short boundaries and it a nicely paced wicket, it wasn't turning a whole lot and there wasn't much in it for the seamers. We decided that we were going to be positive, get off to a good start and then coasted home from there. Today everything went according to plan."
Denmark's two other wins have been by fairly comfortable margins - 114 runs over Italy and six wickets against Jersey with 7.5 overs to spare - and Amjad says coming back from the loss to Bermuda was a big confidence boost that he feels will set them up for a strong performance against Oman in the final round of group play. The winner will clinch promotion to Division Three but if Denmark loses they will need a lot of mathematical help from other results to give them a chance of also being promoted on the net run rate tiebreaker.
"We had a bit of a blip against Bermuda but I think the confidence has been pretty high and this victory boosts the confidence even more," Amjad said. "I think the guys know we need to focus on our skill. The main difference today was that our pace bowlers bowled with more skill than they did. We varied our pace better and we moved the ball consistently.
"I believe we're one of the most skillful teams in this competition, especially with the ball. For me as a captain, I'll tell everyone to relax and have a good day off but then do our skills again and I'm sure we'll finish on top."
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna