When the team sheets were submitted Saturday night at Church Street Park in Morrisville, North Carolina, only one of the 22 players had played for the US. In the first-year T20 Franchise League starting in the USA, American players were notably absent from the playing XI.
“The ground, that was something I knew,” Netrawalkar said in the post-match press conference. “But there are world-class players and you have to improve your game. Playing all these years, I think the three-year ODI cycle really helped us. Especially the World Cup qualifiers were a big step to play against teams like the West Indies, Sri Lanka and Ireland. We are very happy today.”
Defending a total of 133, Phillips made his mark in the third over, running from backward point to a gymnastic twisting catch by Nortje to get Finn Allen. Netrawalkar spent most of his opening spell at 127 and 130 kph. But true to his reputation as the most cerebral of USA’s bowlers – his day job is a senior programmer at Oracle in Silicon Valley – Netrawalkar used his preferred left-hander to enhance his natural inner form, bowling Marcus Stoinis and Shadab Khan in three balls in the fourth over. This was before he returned to the side with Phillips for the sixth over as he took another acrobatic catch at backward point to dismiss Matthew Wade.
“I think if you hit the good-length areas it was not easy to hit the pitch (on),” Netrawalkar said. “We observed that it was a bit two-speed on the wicket, so if we had a good powerplay, we always knew we had a chance. We wanted to fight till the end. That was our motto, we never give up, we try to fight till the last ball. T20 is a funny game. One over can change the game from here to there. So we wanted to believe in it.”
“I’m really clear about my role. That’s my strength. I look to swing the ball forward, so I back myself to do that.”
Returning in the final over, Netrawalkar continued where he left off in the sixth over, falling behind while attempting an innovative flick after a shuffle across Chaitanya Bishnoi’s stumps. It was fitting that Phillips was caught in the deep to complete Netrawalkar’s five-wicket haul after one ball in Harris Rauff’s slog. Liam Plunkett then gave Netrawalkar a more conservative number six.
I am lucky to have such a team environment, said Netrawalkar. “It’s really positive, the staff and the captain are giving us a lot of clarity on roles. Even the senior bowlers, we have really productive meetings where we brainstorm ideas, which helps me learn a lot about bowling in different situations. I’m really clear about my role. That’s my strength. I look to swing the ball forward.