Tue, Mar 09, 2004 - Page 20 News List

US cricket team earns shot at the big boys

MOVE OVER BASEBALL US cricketing authorities are hoping that their win in the Six Nations Challenge that put them in the Champion Trophy will start a cricket revolution

AP , DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

United States cricket officials hope the team's stunning tournament victory in the Middle East will spark Americans' interest in a game where the bats are flat and balls are stuffed with hard cork.

The US team won the Six Nations Challenge limited-overs event on debut on Saturday, and qualified for the prestigious Champion Trophy in England in September for the first time.

"We have been looking for a starting point, and this victory will be the launching pad for cricket in America," said Gerald Singh, a board member of the United States of America Cricket Association.

He said the association was inundated with congratulatory calls from home and abroad after the US edged 2003 World Cup entrants the Netherlands, Namibia and Canada, along with Scotland and the host United Arab Emirates.

"We are so happy and thrilled with this victory, it has came as a surprise to all of us," said Singh, speaking by telephone from his home in Suffolk County, New York.

The Americans finished tied for three wins with the Netherlands, Scotland, Namibia, and Emirates, and qualified first on net run rate, with .550542 to Scotland's .522868.

In the final round on Saturday, the US team beat Scotland by five wickets in 47.2 overs. If Scotland had lasted five balls longer, it would have won the tournament, said event manager Tim Anderson.

"It's like the Americans sneaked in from the back door," Anderson said.

The Champions Trophy features cricket's top nations, and the US joins World Cup winner Australia and New Zealand in Pool 1.

The US is an associate member of the International Cricket Council, and its 19th-century trailblazers helped to start baseball in America.

While cricket is the rage in England, the Indian subcontinent and Down Under, it is played in all 50 US states, mostly by immigrants or first and second-generation Americans. There are major cricket centers in New York, New Jersey, California, Florida, Chicago and Texas.

In the United States, cricket continues to be an amateur sport, mostly played in public parks on weekends. There are 29 established leagues, 500 clubs and more than 10,000 players nationwide.

"When they came here, everyone thought the US side was weak and that they will not make it very far in the tournament," said Shah Hussein, the Emirates liaison officer of the American squad.

"But they proved otherwise and it was a big shock for everyone," Hussein said.

Anderson agreed. "I think the US performed beyond everyone's expectations. I think everyone is still in a state of shock."

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