USA and UAE pull ahead at World Cup Qualifier Play-Off

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Meanwhile, PNG slide to relegation, and will be stripped off their ODI status in the next cycle
Meanwhile, PNG slide to relegation, and will be stripped off their ODI status in the next cycle © Getty

The United States took pole position at the CWC Qualifier Play-off with an emphatic 113-run win over Papua New Guinea at Wanderers on the sixth day's play at Windhoek, condemning the Papuans to the Challenge Leagues, a certain wooden spoon meaning they will be stripped of ODI status for the coming cycle. The Americans were joined by the UAE at the top of the table on 6 points as the Emiratis held off hosts Namibia at United, defending their total of 267-5 by a 28-run margin to pick up their third win of the tournament.

A returning Steven Taylor top-scored for the States with a 133-ball 81 at the top of the order, vice captain Aaron Jones also contributing a half century to what initially looked a sub-par total of 235-7. However Ali Khan took three consecutive wickets in his opening spell to put the Barramundis on the back foot, before Gajanand Singh ended Asad Vala's resistance and then ran through the tail with a spell of 4-15 to seal a three-figure win.

The match at United proved a closer-fought affair, but the hosts were left regretting their decision to bat first as a measured 93* off 118 from Vritya Aravind provided the stability and Asif Khan's 86-ball 96 provided the late acceleration to see the UAE set a challenging 268-run target on what looked a more traditional United wicket. Shaun Fouche and Michale van Lingen set a solid platform with an 80-run stand for the second wicket, but the middle order struggled to find the measure of the pitch as the Emirates strangled the scoring, and after skipper Erasmus departed with his side barely half-way to the target, regular wickets would keep his side behind the chase, and despite some defiant late hitting from Ruben Trumpelmann, the hosts would be bowled out 28 runs short.

Aravind arrived at the crease immediately after the powerplay as Muhammad Waseem fell LBW to Karl Birkenstock's second ball after a 49-run opening stand with Aryan Lakra. Six overs later Lakra contrived to glove a wide ball down leg onto his own stumps and the scoring slowed to a crawl, just five more runs coming before Berhard Scholtz took Rameez Shazad's outside edge in the 20th over with the score on 75.

Aravind and Asif Khan took their time however, and gradually the runs began to flow. Khan began to hit out in earnest after the pair brought up a century stand and looked set for another hundred of his own when UAE's hapless running struck again, sent back to his doom by Aravind in the 47th over four runs short of his ton. Aravind would not reach the milestone either as Erasmus brought himself on at the death and succeeded in spiking the Emirati guns, clean bowling Rohan Mustafa at the end to help hold the UAE to 267-5 with Aravind unbeaten on 93 from 118.

Namibia initially looked comfortable enough despite the early wicket of Niko Davin, driving Sharma low to Waseem at mid off. Van Lingen and Fouche took the hosts to 85 without further loss by the 17th, but then both went in consecutive overs. Fouche fell 3 short of fifty playing around a Meiyappan googly, who might have had another had Aravind not spilled a big top edge coming forward to reprieve Erasmus two balls later. The wicket was not long in coming though, as van Lingen slapped a full toss back to Mustafa first ball of the 18th and from there on the Emiratis were on top.

The asking rate climbed inexorably as the home skipper succumbed to the growing pressure in the 32nd, smartly stumped off Aayan for 30 missing a paddle-sweep. Though Birkenstock and Pikky Ya France added a defiant 30 for the 7th wicket they were never keeping up with the asking rate, which had climbed past nine by the time Ya France fell to Mustafa courtesy a fine tumbling catch by Sharma in the deep. Trumpelmann provided some late fireworks, taking three consecutive boundaries off Siddique in the 46th over including two huge sixes over long on, but fell to Zahoor next for a 15-ball 28. Berhard Scholtz got a couple away before the close, but by then the result was clear, Zahoor taking Ben Shikongo's off stump with eight balls left to all but end Namibia's hopes of qualification.

By then the game at Wanderers was long over, and along with it PNG's run as an ODI nation. The USA had looked behind the game early in the first innings when Sushant Modani and Saiteja Mukkamalla both fell in the powerplay, Modani run out in the sixth looking for a second run in which Taylor lost interest after two steps down, and Mukkamalla flicking Semo Kamea straight to backward square in the ext over. There were still only 69 runs on the board when Monank Patel popped a leading edge to Sese Bau at a short-on position on the last ball of the 18th.

However, Taylor made full use of repeated reprieves, dropped twice on 21 and again just before bringing up his half century, a regulation chance at deep square off Bau spilled over the rope as PNG continued to undermine their reputation as a fielding side. Together with Jones, he took the States to 158-3 in 40 overs before being pinned LBW by Vala. Jones was bowled six overs later, missing a slog-sweep to Hekure, having taken the USA close to 200 with a 77-ball 65. Jessy Singh provided an entertaining cameo before he too was trapped in front trying to sweep a fuller ball from Kamea. Nevertheless, the 235 on the board at the break would prove well beyond PNG.

Ali Khan struck thrice in his opening spell, taking Tony Ura's edge with a rising short ball after Ura had hit him for a third boundary, then seeing Sese Bau drag on in his next over, before Kipling Doriga was trapped in front in his fourth. Hiri Hiri's belaboured 8 off 32 put the Barramundis further off the pace before spooning Nisarg Patel down long off's throat, and as CJ Amini was needlessly run out three overs later PNG's hopes once again rested on Vala.

Riley Hekure kept his skipper company for another six overs before losing his off stump going back to Gajanand with the score still in double figures and Gaudi Toka lasted just 14 balls before being bowled by Nisarg with Nelson on the board. Vala looked to soldier on with the tail, but when he fell LBW to Gajanand for 42 missing a sweep on the first ball of the 34th, PNG's hopes went with him. The innings lasted another five balls, Soper clean bowled swiping across the line and John Kariko nicking his first ball through to the keeper with 15 overs and 114 runs to go.

The defeat means PNG are guaranteed the wooden spoon, and that their final match of the tournament against Canada will also be their last ODI for at least four years. Conversely the three-figure margin of victory puts the USA in a particularly strong position at the top of the table, with a net run rate of +.89 and as well as a crucial head to head win over their nearest rivals UAE. Canada have a chance to draw level with their neighbours when they take on the hosts on Tuesday at United, provided Jersey manage to upset the Americans in the game at Wanderers, and thus keep their hopes of claiming ODI status alive going into the final day on Wednesday.




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