For our first overseas Test, we made one change from the XI that opposed England in our inaugural five-day encounter. Batsmen Bryn Jones, who made an excellent 66 in our warm-up match, came into the side at the expense of opening bowler Osain Williams. Jones, an opener by trade, who batted at three (Then nine) in the practice game, had to contend himself with a place at number five in the order. That meant a reshuffle with off-spinning all-rounder Maxwell Khan a little unfortunate to drop down from number five to eight. The remainder of the batting line-up all dropped down a place.
Captain Ioan Powell won the toss and had no hesitation in choosing to bat first. We’d seen how the pitch had performed in the warm-up match and with three genuine spinners in our line-up, wanted to allow the surface to deteriorate as much as possible and leave the home side to chase.
Wales 149 (37.2) Edwards 57, Shah 53, Thomas 11/Pittman 5-10, Jeffries 2-10, North 2-8
Opening batsmen Stephen Shah and Aled Edwards began the day by making hay on the field of play. The duo brought up their nation’s first ever century stand at international level to be exactly 100-0 at drinks. Not long after however, USA brought spin into the equation and that literally turned the game. After an over or two of prodding, Shah (53) survived an LBW review only to edge to the wicketkeeper off the following delivery. Edwards (57) survived a little longer before he edged to slip off the spinner bowling from the other end. The pair had done tremendously well to achieve an opening partnership of 110 and though they soon fell to spin, they didn’t get out wafting and the pitch was offering assistance to turners.
Dylan Roberts, our best batsman on the international scene to date but having not played in the warm-up match, soon followed for just 7, edged and caught at slip. Debutante Bryn Jones, having performed so well in the tour game, was then flummoxed by the surprising introduction of a pace bowler, one who didn’t bowl particularly fast. Jones defended a delivery that he could’ve left and like many before him, was out caught at slip, in his case for just 2. Eifion Williams, who had a poor practice game but whose spin bowling skills made sure that he was retained in the Test XI, was bowled by spin for just 1, meaning that he hadn’t reached double figures in three innings since arriving Stateside.
Skipper Powell and wicketkeeper Rhodri Thomas reached lunch at 133-5. A somewhat disappointing score having been 110-0. First ball after the interval, Powell (5) edged behind but it didn’t carry. Second ball after the interval, he edged behind again… and it did carry! Maxwell Khan (6) soon followed, adjudged LBW on review having not offered a shot. Cai Hughes was bowled for a duck in the same over before Dwayne Alexander slapped one straight to the fielder first ball! Rhodri Thomas (11) was bowled in the next over.
We’d collapsed from 110-0 to 149 all out, primarily at the hands of spin with one of their bowlers claiming 5-10. It was an embarrassing collapse after messrs Shah and Edwards had made such an encouraging start. The only other positive was that the performance of the home spinners provided our own turning threesome with huge optimism.
USA 420-7 dec. (110.00) Morrison 114, Trujillo 96, Potter 71/E.Williams 3-76, Hughes 3-132, Jones 0-2
Despite a good standard of bowling from opening bowlers Rhys Evans and Dwayne Alexander, USA reached 31-0 at thirst quenching. Cue the introduction of spin. Despite beating the bat on numerous occasions, USA ascended to 71-0 at the interval.
Finally, with the score on 131, slow left-armer Cai Hughes, bowling around the wicket to the right-hander, made the breakthrough by bowling Martin The Wizard Potter for 71. The Wizard would wave his wand no longer, at least not in this innings.
The home side progressed to 189-1 with Potter’s opening partner JJ Morrison on 91, however left-arm pacer Evans knocked over his stumps with a sensational inswinging yorker… off a NO BALL! Minutes later, overthrows took Morrison from 95 to 99.
USA closed the day on 209-1, a lead of 52 and Morrison sleeping one run shy of a century on Test debut. For us and our travelling fans, a day that had begun with such promise, saw us staring down a possible innings defeat. This having won the toss and been 110-0!
On day two, we agreed to put the opening day behind us, enjoy ourselves and bowl out the home side. Again, both Alexander (0-47) and Evans (0-63) were genuinely unfortunate not to take a wicket. Morrison soon brought up a fantastic ton in his country’s first ever Test and fair play to him. Eifion Williams eventually terminated Morrison’s (114) excellent knock courtesy of a catch by gloveman Thomas with the score 253-2. At that stage USA already led by over 100 runs. Number three Stuart Trujillo feasted on Cai Hughes bowling but with the game already well out of reach, captain Ioan Powell made the brave call to persist with the slow left-armer. The decision reaped dividends when Hughes had Trujillo (96) edge behind just four runs short of joining his teammate Morrison in registering a debut Test ton.
That left USA 299-3 but a middle order collapse ensued and they were soon 308-5. Firstly, Williams struck again by bowling Pittman (3) then Alexander ran Jeffries (21) out via an incredible direct hit from deep in the outfield. At lunch on the second day, USA were 325-5, a lead of 176.
Post bagels and OJ, Jackson North and Henry Wilks batted well in tandem to take USA to 345-6. North (21), who batted with reasonable intent, became Williams (3-76) third victim when he dragged onto his stumps. Wilks continued with Rufus Suarez for company and the pair put on fifty to take the hosts past 400. Suarez was adjudged LBW off Hughes when on 30 but successfully reviewed. Incredibly, following an eleventh maiden from Williams, Hughes (3-76) then took out Suarez’s middle stump the very next ball he faced after overturning the LBW decision.
Wilks (53*) went past fifty and USA were 271 runs in the black on 420-7 at tea. Just as we prepared to come out and mop up the tail, we were informed that the hosts had opted to declare. Openers Stephen Shah and Aled Edwards put their pads on.
Wales 127 (23.0) Powell 40, Jones 33, Edwards 16/Suarez 5-33, Pittman 2-14, Napier 2-35
To just the second delivery of our second innings, we lost Shah without scoring. Fellow opener Edwards and the promoted Jones then moved comfortably to 28-1 before an all to familiar dismissal for Edwards. On 16, he wafted outside off stump and was caught by that man Morrison with the gloves.
Jones, promoted up the order having done well in the tour game and to try and make life easier for an undercooked Roberts, looked a quality player whilst compiling a partnership of 46 with his captain. Having made a run-a-ball 33 however, he feathered an unnecessary push outside off stump to slip. Skipper Powell, having walked to the crease with just eleven runs in three Test innings, finally displayed some of his undoubted quality with the bat. The left-hander made a really important 40 both for him personally and the team. His innings included three boundaries before he dragged onto his stumps when trying to cut.
From 94-4 an alarming trend of incompetent wafts outside off stump saw us capitulate to just 127 all out on the third day. Change right-arm pacer Rufus Suarez (5-33) accounted for Williams (1), Thomas (3) and Khan first ball. Having already accounted for Jones, Suarez would complete a debut Test fifer by having Alexander (8) caught behind, a fourth catch of the innings for Man of the Match Morrison. Alexander had at least hit the first ball that he had faced for 6!
Despite an optimistic review, Cai Hughes (1) was LBW to spinner Pittman’s first ball of the innings. Then, not for the first time in his career, last man Roberts (15) was bowled by spin (Pittman again!) when opting to leave the ball. Pittman finished the match with figures of 7-24. Clearly we need to improve against spin but lost wickets all too regularly against pace in the second innings as well.
Lost by an innings and 144 runs
At 93-3, though still a long way behind in the match, the likes of Edwards, Jones, Powell and later Roberts, all briefly looked the part in Test cricket. The lower order failed to apply themselves as they are capable off though and our batsmen have to find ways to turn starts into scores of real substance… and fast!
We won the toss and were 110-0… but lost by an innings!
Congratulations to USA who thoroughly deserved their maiden Test win and left us still seeking ours. Though we’ve done well in white-ball cricket thus far, we’ll desperately need to up our game to compete with the home side in the upcoming ODIs/T20Is.