West win inaugural USA Cricket U15 National Championship, young stars emerge

On November 9, the West Zone defeated the South Zone to win the inaugural USA Cricket Men’s U15 National Championship at Prairie View Cricket Complex in Prairie View, Texas. The event was sponsored by Indian digital consultancy firm CriticalRiver.

Intent to avenge a loss to the South Zone in the round robin stage, the West held the South to 206 runs in 40 overs, after losing the toss and being asked to bowl first.

Utkarsh Srivastava top scored for the South, with 70 from 81, entering in the sixth over and scoring more aggressively than his partners until he was run out by Pranav Reddy Pagydyala and Ryaan Taj on the final ball of the 36th. Nitish Sudini entered with the South trodding away at 149/3 with one ball left in the 33rd over, and promptly smashed 40 from 25, not out, to give life to the South innings. Still, defending the 207 target was always going to be a challenging task for the young South Zone bowlers.

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Siddhant Senthil’s bowling contribution went a long way in containing the South to 206, as he led the West attack with two maidens and a wicket in his eight overs, at an economical 3.25 runs per over. Senthil continued his tremendous production against the South, after allowing only 19 runs from six overs with another maiden and a wicket on Friday, and proved to be a reliable wicket taker throughout the entire pathway tournament, taking 10 wickets in seven innings at a 2.90 economy in 38.2 overs.

Ryaan Taj, Advaith Kirshna, and Karan Anand also took wickets for the West, with Anand’s impressive economy of 4.67 in six overs inflated by a run per over due to six wides.

In Friday’s shortened 30 overs game, the South had the West all out for 171 with nine balls to spare, and won by nine runs. The West were run out four times in the chase, including the tenth wicket of number four batter Amogh Arepally, who was trying for two to get back on strike while batting with the tail.

Sunday’s rematch was a different story altogether, as the South failed to trouble the West for most of the chase, and the West were more disciplined with their running. A massive seventh over at the expense of Aniruddh Bolisetty saw Sohum Arora and Sahil Garg take the West from 20 runs to 41 runs without loss, thanks in part to a no ball that was punished by Garg for six. Eight more runs in the eighth over put the West well ahead in run rate at 6.13, having started the innings needing only 5.18 per over to win.

Ansh Rai looked like he pulled the game back for the South in the ninth, with a double wicket maiden over. Flighting the ball from around the wicket, the left arm orthodox bowler claimed the West captain, Sohum Arora (18 from 16), leg before wicket. Two balls later with a similar, smooth delivery, Rai found the leading edge of Pranav Reddy Pagydyala (0 from 2), who was caught by Tanish Dangre for a duck.

The West wouldn’t lose another wicket until the 25th over, when Abhiram Yeruva finally retired Garg (70 from 86) at 136/3. With 15 overs to go, seven wickets in hand, and Amogh Arepally off to a comfortable start of 37 from 42, the West would coast the rest of the way, taking advantage of a conservative approach from the South in the field.

Arepally and Ritish Mohindru (37 from 54) would partner for the remaining 71 runs, with Arepally ending with 67 from 72.

Arepally, one of the oldest players in the tournament at 16, whose late birthday kept him qualified as a U15, finished the Nationals with a tournament-leading 274 runs and the tournament MVP award. Second place finisher, 13 year old Adnit Jhamb, was 97 runs behind. Jamb’s 177 runs stood out as a bright spot for the fourth place finishing South West Zone, along with the tournament’s Best Bowler Vihaan Mehta, also 13, whose nine wickets paced the tournament by three.

Also on Sunday, in the third place playoff, the Mid Atlantic Zone topped the South West Zone by 52 runs, thanks to 87 runs from Dev Salian and three wickets from Arya Garg. In the fifth place playoff, the East defeated the Mid West by eight wickets, reaching the 100 run target in only 14.2 overs, thanks to 58 runs from Jayden Higgins and dominant bowling from Sahir Bhatia (4 wickets, 2.43 economy) and the entire East attack.

The 2022 Critical River USA Cricket Men’s U15 National Championship was the first ever in the U15 age group for the current National Governing Body. Occurring across just four days, each zonal team of 14 players played four games. Each team played one 40 overs game, one 30 overs game, and one 35 overs game, with the National Championship Final a 40 overs game, and the other two 35 overs playoffs.

The inaugural age group competition, paid for by sponsorships, was staged in the midst of a difficult time for USA Cricket, financially speaking. Some employees and contractors remain unpaid after several months, and the USA Women’s U19 team raised money for a training trip to UAE via a GoFundMe established by captain Geetika Kodali, meant to prepare for the inaugural ICC Women’s U19 World Cup in January in South Africa.

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