South West Zone’s Road To Victory in the USA Cricket Men’s Under 19 National Championship

South West Zone’s Road To Victory in the USA Cricket Men’s Under 19 National Championship

USA Cricket took immense pleasure in unveiling the Men’s Under 19 National Championship which marked its return on June 26, 2023. It was certainly a thrilling experience for many who hoped to see some young faces willing to bring their dazzling capabilities to the fore. 

The tournament was based on a 50-over format that ran from June 26 to June 29 and comprised 12 matches. Three matches were played per day across three different grounds in Woodley Cricket Complex, in Van Nuys, California. A total of 6 teams participated in this year’s National Championship which included West Zone, Midwest Zone & Mid-Atlantic Zone from Group A, and South West Zone, South Zone & East Zone from Group B.

Our prime focus is on two young heroes from South West Zone who managed to raise a few eyebrows with their sensational form with the bat. Let us dive in and focus our lens on Rishi Ramesh and Arjun Mahesh who delivered some exceptional knocks to power Mid-Atlantic Zone all the way to the U-19 Championship final. 

Stars who stole the show

Rishi Ramesh is a 17-year-old top-order batter who is handy with his leg spin bowling. He is currently a part of the Mustangs Cricket Academy and has participated in a variety of domestic limited-overs competitions around his vicinity. Through his extended participation in such tournaments, Rishi piled up a lot of runs and in the process, gained some valuable experience which helped him take his game to a whole new level. 

Captaining the South West Zone side, Rishi endured a dream run in this tournament and ended his campaign on a high with 274 runs under his belt. In just 4 games in the tournament, he averaged 68.5 and scored at a blistering strike rate of 86.8. He was in such great form that he came agonizingly close to scoring two centuries in this tournament. 

His partner from the same Metro area, Arjun Mahesh did not go unnoticed either as he too smashed a lot of runs in this year’s U-19 Championship league. Arjun is a 16-year-old wicketkeeper-batter who is in the early stages of his career. At such a tender age, Arjun has a remarkable batting average of 59.72 and an overall strike rate of 105.49 in one-day cricket. 

During this tournament, he made some significant contributions with the bat which led to many experts to take cognizance of this young talent. He ended this championship with a staggering average of 46.25 and a commendable strike rate of 72.61. His well-constructed innings of 89 (120) put South West Zone in the driving seat for a memorable victory during the Championship final.

South West Zone’s Road to the finals

South West Zone went down to Mid-West Atlantic in their opening game of the tournament. The top-order showed little signs of resistance. The skipper Rishi Ramesh had an off day with the bat being dismissed for 12 (29). However, Arjun Mahesh waged a lone battle and scored a fighting knock of 61 (81). Along with useful contributions from Hrrit Hinge (33 off 80) and Rayaan Bhagani (36 off 21), South West Zone was able to get to a face-saving total of 193. The bowlers showed some fighting spirit but with very little to defend, South West Zone ended up on the losing side and lost the game by 5 wickets.

However, they managed to turn things around in the second game, beating Midwest Zone by a comprehensive margin of 24 runs. The openers Abhinav Sikharam (40 off 48) and Arjun Mahesh (30 off 52) got South West Zone off to a reasonable start. But once they were dismissed, South West Zone entered into a bit of a hole. The skipper Rishi Ramesh later arrived at the scene and got into the rescue act scoring a magnificent 98 (103). He stayed unbeaten till the end to drag his side to a par total of 228. The bowling department featuring the likes of Aryan Satheesh and Joy Jadhav rose to the occasion and shared 5 wickets between them to rock the Midwest Zone batting lineup. The shock was so severe that they were soon bundled out for 204, handing South West a comfortable victory at the end. 

After getting back to winning ways, South West Zone took on West Zone in their next fixture and managed to decimate them by a colossal margin of 105 runs to book their place in the finals. Arjun Mahesh had a rare off day with the bat after being dismissed for a paltry score of 5 (6). In no time, the South West Zone were reduced for 9/2 and it was on the skipper yet again to bail them out of trouble. Rishi Ramesh notched up a delightful century of 118 (118) which included 9 fours and 3 sixes. With very minimal support from the other end, he orchestrated robust innings which featured some delightful stroke play coupled with some calculated risks which took his side to a very competitive first innings score of 252. In the end, the target proved to be enough as Aarin Nadkarni and Aryan Satheesh ran through the defenses of West Zone batters to skittle them for 147.

After making their way into the finals, South West Zone was tasked with avenging their defeat against the Mid-Atlantic Zone which they suffered in the league stages of the tournament. This time around though, the South West Zone made a strong start with the bat and added some useful runs at the top of the order. Arjun Mahesh played a match-defining innings of 89 (120) which virtually batted Mid-Atlantic Zone out of the game. He scored at a strike rate of less than 75 with 7 boundaries to his name. He was well supported by Abhinav Sikharam (21 off 39) and Rishi Ramesh (46 off 43) at the other end. Aryan Satheesh played a quickfire cameo of 45 (39) to lift South West Zone to a commanding score of 260. Later in the second innings, Aryan delivered a devastating spell of 5/23 at an impressive economy of 3.83 RPO to squeeze the life out of Mid-Atlantic Zone. Josh Saripella and Rayaan Bhagani later got into the act and tightened the screws around Mid-Atlantic batters sharing 4 wickets between them. The Mid-Atlantic Zone could not withstand such an aggressive onslaught and as a result, their innings soon ended as they were bowled out cheaply for 152 inside 39 overs. South West Zone were crowned the champions of the Men’s Under 19 National Championship after completing a successful 108-run victory against Mid-Atlantic Zone. 

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