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'Proud moment for everyone in this group' - Gajanand Singh on USA's victory over Ireland

Sushant Modani credits coach for positive culture around squad after impressing on T20I debut

Gajanand Singh and Sushant Modani shared a USA T20I record 110-run stand, USA v Ireland, 1st T20I, Lauderhill, December 22, 2021

Gajanand Singh and Sushant Modani shared a USA T20I record 110-run stand  •  Peter Della Penna

At 16 for 4 in the powerplay, the prospect of a USA victory against visiting Ireland seemed highly unlikely. Which is why the stirring comeback produced by Gajanand Singh and Sushant Modani made victory so much sweeter. Singh, who was named Player of the Match for his 65 as part of a USA record 110-run fifth-wicket partnership with Modani, described the 26-run victory as "an awesome feeling."
"To always contribute to your team and especially winning a game like this, a first against a Test nation and a Full Member of the ICC, it's a proud moment for me and everyone in this group," Singh told ESPNcricinfo after the victory.
One of the salient features of several of the early wickets lost by USA was the panicked nature of the strokes, as Ireland medium-pacer Barry McCarthy seized on dot ball pressure to strike three times. But Singh said part of the reason for his success was having a clear head unclouded by glancing at the grim-looking scoreboard.
"Going out there, I took the score away from any of my thoughts," Singh said. "I played the ball, I didn't play the scoreboard. I think by doing that and giving myself a chance, hitting the Vs up front, hitting some balls on the ground, putting away a bad ball or two early in your innings always gives you a set of confidence to go deep in your innings. I'm fortunate to have Sushant as my partner there. We worked together and played to our strengths and I think it worked out well."
After biding his time through the 11th over, Singh started to unleash on the Ireland bowling unit, slog-sweeping Simi Singh's offspin for the first of five sixes. That one, as well as three of the next four, all cleared the east side boundary where the wind had been gusting strongly. Singh said the success of clearing the boundary was simply down to taking well-calculated risks in the situation.
"The wind was a big factor when we batted so we tried to play percentages," Singh said. "We knew going against the wind would be risky. I don't think we took any chances against the wind. We backed ourselves when it's in our area. If you feel you can get under it or a good piece of it, we backed ourselves and it just worked out for us today."
Modani also impressed on his T20I debut, scoring a half-century. But Modani said much of the credit for his own success was influenced by the approach taken by Singh at the opposite end.
"For this partnership, a lot of credit goes to him," Modani said. "He soaked in a lot of pressure because he was getting those big boundaries and sixes so I didn't really have to think a lot or do very differently. All I had to do was keep rotating the strike."
Both men fell before the final over, yet there were still more fireworks to come for USA in the form of Marty Kain. Seizing on a poor line bowled by Mark Adair, Kain utilised the wind blowing east in the same manner as Singh to score two fours and two sixes over backward square leg in a massively consequential 23-run final over to boost USA to 188. Though victory would not have been possible without the partnership between Singh and Modani, Kain's impact on the match was no less significant in the eyes of Singh, especially since it also came on T20I debut.
"Marty played a blinder there," Singh said. "To come in at the end and play the way he's played in his first game for the US is exceptional. It shows the confidence of him as a player and shows that he knows his skill and backs himself. I just hope he continues and goes from strength to strength and can play more innings like that for the US."
The win was also highlighted by solid fielding contributions from two teenage debutants, Yasir Mohammad and Ritwik Behera. While Behera took two key catches fielding in the deep, Mohammad also took a catch at deep square leg in the second over, teaming up with Ali Khan to help dismiss Ireland captain Andy Balbirnie, before later bowling a crucial death-overs spell, bouncing back from a shaky opening over.
"I think our senior bowlers stood out today," Singh said. "Nisarg [Patel], Ali and Saurabh [Netravalkar], all three of them put their hands up. They bowled to a plan and it worked out in the end. Sticking together, everyone knows our plans bowling to particular batsmen and these guys did their job and bowled their areas good. I must commend young Yasir also. Playing his first game after getting a few boundaries in his first over, he held his nerves pretty well to come back and bowl a pretty decent spell."
According to Modani, the calmness of the youngsters is a product of the new culture established by head coach J Arunkumar - known for always having a smile on his face. Modani said the coach's relaxed nature helps put everyone at ease and gets them performing at their best on a consistent basis, whether it's the veterans or those on debut like Kain, the teenage pair and Modani, who was not supposed to be in the T20I squad but was drafted as a late replacement after four players were ruled out due to a Covid outbreak.
"I think a lot of credit goes to our coach and team management," Modani said. "A lot of positivity gets instilled in the dressing room before the game, or even the talks we have. So that's like a mental preparation for us. Even if I wasn't in the T20 squad, I was still mentally prepared that I still have time before the ODIs that I'll do something but in a positive frame of mind. It's the team which fills you with that motivation."
That motivation continues to fuel USA for the rest of the tour. Singh, Modani and the rest of the squad are out to show that Wednesday's win was no fluke. The T20I series concludes on Thursday before the three-match ODI series commences on December 26.

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna