Sports

The US cricket team is closing in on a major achievement at the Twenty20 World Cup

The sport of cricket is as foreign to most Americans as driving on the left-hand side of the road or drinking warm beer.

This year, though, the United States is getting a close-up view of the bat-and-ball sport originally from England that resembles a cockeyed version of baseball where the pitcher purposely bounces the ball in front of the batter.

The U.S. national cricket team — which dates to at least 1844 — has already made a dent in the hierarchy of the game by beating Pakistan last week at the Twenty20 World Cup, which is being held in New York, Texas, Florida and six other venues dotted around the Caribbean.

The team's next game is set for Wednesday against India on Long Island, about an hour outside New York. The Americans aren't expected to win that one, but neither were they expected to beat Pakistan — a traditional powerhouse that reached the final at the last T20 World Cup in 2022.

“We know that we really and truly want to get the word out there as it relates to cricket in the country for the American born and raised people,” said Aaron Jones, the American team's top batter. “I think the further we go in the tournament, the better for us, and the better for us bringing fans on board.”

Still, similar to the match against Pakistan, the Americans can expect the other team to get the bulk of the crowd support on Wednesday at the temporary Nassau County International Cricket Stadium.

The South Asian diaspora, like most people back in their homelands, is wild about cricket. They certainly turned out on Sunday for the highly anticipated match between India and Pakistan at the same venue, located not far from immigrant-heavy neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn.

“I think the crowd will be supporting both teams, to be honest,” Jones said Tuesday. “We have a lot of Indian players on our team as well. So, I think the crowd will be supporting both teams.”

Although the United States is known for playing in the very first international cricket match against Canada in 1844, the sport declined in participation through the decades while baseball — a pastime more similar to the game of rounders with players running around bases rather than just back and forth — flourished on these shores.

It’s making a comeback, though. Cricket was added to the Olympic program for 2028 Los Angeles Games, the first time the sport will be played at the event since the 1900 Paris Games.

“With cricket being one of the biggest sports in the world, it’s only a matter of time before the majority of people come on board as it relates to American born and raised people,” Jones said. “I think America is a place where people love sports and obviously this World Cup is going to open the eyes of a lot of people, and then in a few years obviously with cricket being in the Olympics, that’s a very big thing as well.”

There’s also a professional Twenty20 circuit in the United States that started play last year. Major League Cricket’s second season is set to open on July 5 with six teams.

Twenty20 cricket is the shortest of the three main forms of the game. Each team is at bat for 20 overs (about 120 pitched balls, or six pitches per over) or until the fielding team gets 10 of the 11 opposing players out. One-day cricket expands that to 50 overs for each team, while test cricket is an unlimited amount of overs with each side batting twice. A test match — the most revered form of the game — can last up to five days, with breaks for lunch and tea during the eight-or-so-hour daily sessions.

Teams in cricket score significantly more runs than in baseball. The Americans, for example, piled up 159 runs against Pakistan to tie the score after the 20 overs were completed and then won in a super over — the equivalent of an extra inning in baseball.

The U.S. team is made up of players with roots in the hotbeds of the sport, including India, Pakistan, South Africa and the Caribbean. They know their wickets from their stumps, their centuries from their dot balls and their pace from their spin, even if most of their countrymen don't.

They also know what they are up against on Wednesday facing the likes of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, two of the biggest stars in cricket.

“Me growing up as a kid, I always wanted to play against the best players in the world, and I’m definitely going to get the opportunity to do that now,” Jones said. “I don’t want to say intimidating. I’m excited to play against them, to talk to them, and definitely to beat them as well.”

So far at the T20 World Cup, the United States defeated Canada in its opening Group A game and then downed Pakistan on Thursday. If the team falls against India, the Americans will need to beat Ireland on Friday to have a chance of advancing to the Super 8 — the next stage with the eight quarterfinalists split into two groups of four.

Pakistan, however, put itself back in the mix by beating Canada on Tuesday. If Pakistan beats Ireland on Sunday, it could go down to a somewhat complicated set of tiebreakers to decide if the Americans advance to the next round.

“Right now, we are focused on playing India tomorrow,” Jones said, “and then whatever happens after that ... we’ll deal with it.”

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AP cricket: https://apnews.com/hub/cricket

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