Canada is unbeaten in four matches and poised to regain bragging rights as the top Americas team with one match remaining against host country Bermuda today in the biennial one-day regional cricket competition for Division One teams.
The national side, which finished third in the last two tournaments, easily disposed of the Cayman Islands by eight wickets, the United States by nine wickets, Argentina by six wickets and the Bahamas by 10 wickets.
Boosted by skipper Rizwan Cheema who has been dismissed just once in four innings while posting an impressive 313 runs with an unbeaten hundred, two undefeated half centuries, 22 sixes and 29 boundaries, the victories have been swift and emphatic.
“The grounds have been a bit small, but he has batted real well,” said interim coach Ingleton Liburd after the team’s resounding win over the Bahamas on Tuesday.
Cheema scored an unbeaten 85 off 42 balls as Canada reached 101 without loss in 8.5 overs, pursuing the Bahamas’ modest score of 98 off 36.5 overs.
Canada was expected to dominate Argentina, the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands, but the manner in which they brushed aside the Americans impressed International Cricket Council (ICC) Americas region manager, Martin Vieira.
“It was the first time in quite a while that I have seen the senior team play superbly in every aspect of the game,” said Vieira. “They batted intelligently, fielded crisply and bowled superbly.”
Leading the team in the absence of Ashish Bagai who has a nagging knee injury, Cheema led the way in scoring with an unbeaten 114 off 153 balls with five sixes and 10 boundaries in his team’s successful quest of the American’s total of 189 posted in 49.1 overs.
“This is the best I have seen him play,” said manager Mike Henry. “He seems to have matured and become more responsible with the captaincy. When the ball is in his area, he uses his quick hands to hit to or over the boundary. The other thing I have noticed here is that he’s selective and he is not going after every ball. I also think he realizes the team will do well if he can help them get off to a good start.”
Canada’s opening partnerships have been 82, 98, 42 and 101.
In the first match against the Cayman Islands, Cheema slammed 79 not out off 55 balls with seven sixes and seven boundaries.
Following the 50-overs tournament, the six teams will take part in a two-day Twenty/20 series this weekend. The teams have been divided into two groups with Canada, the U.S. and Argentina in the same bracket while the other group comprises Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands.
Canada meets the United States and Argentina on Saturday. The group winners clash in Sunday’s final.