On paper the Cricket All-Stars series seemed like an old boys junket: take 30 retired cricketers to America and play three Twenty20 games at famous baseball stadiums.
Led by old foes Shane Warne and Sachin Tendulkar, there was plenty of cricketing talent on both teams.
Warne’s “Warriors” had Matthew Hayden, Michael Vaughan, Ricky Ponting, Jonty Rhodes, Jacques Kallis, Andrew Symonds, Kumar Sangakkara, Saqlain Mushtaq, Daniel Vettori, Courtney Walsh, Wasim Akram, Allan Donald and Ajit Agarkar
Sachin’s “Blasters” boasted Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Brian Lara, Saurav Ganguly, Mahela Jayawardene, Carl Hooper, Moin Khan, Muttiah Murlitharan, Graeme Swann, Curtly Ambrose, Shaun Pollock, Glenn McGrath, Lance Klusener and Shoaib Akhtar.
GAME ONE, CITI FIELD, NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 7
Warne’s Warriors won the opening game by six wickets. The Indian openers Sehwag (55) and Tendulkar (26) smashed 85 in the first eight overs. Symonds (3/15) and Warne (3/20) pegged back the Blasters’ momentum, restricting them to 8/140. The Warriors were 2/22 after 2.5 overs before Ponting (48 not out) and Sangakkara (41) put on eighty. After Mulari got Symonds, Rhodes joined Ponting to ease the Warriors home with 16 balls left. Pakistani quick Shoaib Akhtar turned back the clock with 2/26.
GAME TWO, MINUTE MAID PARK, HOUSTON, NOVEMBER 11
Warne’s Warriors sealed the series with a big win at Houston. Sangakkara (70), Kallis (45), Ponting (41), Hayden (32) and Vaughan (30) catapulted the Warriors to a massive 5/262 off 20 overs, a tick over 13 runs an over. The Blasters never threatened the huge target, losing regular wickets, with Symonds taking 4/70. Pollock (55) and Swann (22 not out) put on 62 for the seventh wicket in four overs, but it was too late. The Blasters finished 8/205, losing by 57 runs.
GAME THREE, DODGER STADIUM, LA, NOVEMBER 14
Warne’s Warriors swept the series with a last ball win in LA. Chasing the Blasters’ 220, Warne hit the winning six off Sehwag as the Warriors reached 6/224. After a minute’s silence for the Paris tragedy, Tendulkar lifted spirits with 57 off 26 balls and another half-century opening stand with Sehwag (27). Ganguly (50), Jayawardene (41) and Hooper (33 not out) pushed the Blasters to 5/219. The Warriors’ reply was sporadic. A fifty-run stand between Queensland and Australian teammates Hayden and Symonds (31) and 48 between Ponting (43 not out) and Sangakkara (42) helped the Warriors to a shaky 5/129 after 13.2 overs. Kallis (47) joined Pointing for an 88-run stand before Warne’s heroics.
So can this series be marked a success?
Yes. There was plenty of entertaining cricket, with four totals over 200 and an exciting final game.
More importantly, the series was well attended. Big Bang Theory star Kunal Nayarr called the third game attendance “more electric than India” when interviewed for TV.
The golden question is: can cricket work in America?
With the Twenty20 format? Definitely. While some traditionalists frown on the game’s shortest format, it’s perfect for people new to cricket. It works well for Americans as the three hour duration is roughly the same as a baseball or American Football game. The game has enough superficial similarities to baseball to relate to Americans.
The USACA (United States of America Cricket Association) has 51 state association members in the USA and is a member of the ICC, so there is a cricketing presence. Team USA played in the 2015 ICC Twenty20 World Cup Qualifiers, finishing fifth in Pool A with a 3-3 record.