Cricket finally grabs Americans’ attention after United States’ shock win over Pakistan

United States bowler Saurabh Nethralvakar, left, celebrates their ICC men's T20 World Cup win over Pakistan. Picture: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP

United States bowler Saurabh Nethralvakar, left, celebrates their ICC men's T20 World Cup win over Pakistan. Picture: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP

Published Jun 7, 2024


It was always going to take something big to make Americans pay any attention to cricket and Thursday's stunning victory by the USA over established power Pakistan provided just that moment.

The thrilling Super Over triumph in Dallas by the T20 World Cup debutants over the 2022 finalists and 2009 winners was the biggest upset in the history of the competition.

But while the victory was heralded across the cricketing world, few but the hardcore fans of what is a very niche sport in the USA, witnessed it.

The tournament is being co-hosted by the USA with the game played in a converted minor-league baseball park in the Grand Prairie suburb of Dallas, Texas which holds just 7,000 spectators.

The game wasn't even broadcast on American television but was instead only shown on the cricket-specialist Willow TV subscription channel and streaming service.

But online and in social media, American sports fans quickly became aware of their team's achievement.

NPR public radio tried to put the win into context for those not familiar with the sport.

"Team USA just beat Pakistan in Super Over, the baseball equivalent is extra innings," they reported.

"Just to put this into an American sports context, Pakistan losing to the US is like the Boston Red Sox losing to the Durham Bulls," they added, referring to the minor league baseball team from North Carolina.

Outside of the USA though there was no need for analogies.

The UK's Times called it "one of the biggest upsets in cricket history" while Australia's Daily Telegraph said the Americans had "stunned world cricket".

It will all be music to the ears of the game's governing body, the ICC, who chose the USA as co-host for this tournament, alongside the West Indies, to help efforts to popularise the T20 format in the USA.

— ICC (@ICC) June 6, 2024

As well as Texas, Florida and New York are also holding games in the group stage before the Caribbean takes sole ownership of the later rounds.

Out of 'hibernation'

The sport has a curious history in North America - the first ever international match featured the USA against Canada in 1844 but the lingering influence of the colonial-era game faded as baseball gained prominence.

The Americans have never featured in either the T20 World Cup or the ODI version and not even they would have expected such a start to the tournament with the Pakistan win coming after a thrilling victory over Canada on Saturday.

The USA team, coached by Australian Stuart Law, has a strong Indian influence and is made up of immigrants who have played the bulk of their cricket in the country, along with some players who switched allegiance from other nations after meeting qualification criteria, such as ex-New Zealand all-rounder Corey Anderson.

The game has been growing at grassroots level with thriving local leagues in all three of the states which are hosting games plus in North Carolina and California.

Last year saw the launch of the domestic competition, Major League Cricket, which has begun to attract top international players and investment from Indian cricket sources.

The ICC have played down talk of 'converting' sceptical mainstream American sports fans as a goal for this tournament but the win is bound to raise their hopes.

"Now that's the way to grow the game in the States," tweeted former England captain Michael Vaughan after the match.

Joe Lynn, the curator of the United States Cricket Museum at Haverford College, near Philadelphia, said the wins were "the perfect start" for what he sees as a comeback for the game.

"Perhaps it's always been a misnomer to say cricket died in the US at the hands of baseball, but I think its been in hibernation more than anything else. With Major League Cricket and this World Cup it is a reawakening of sorts," he told the BBC.

USA captain Monank Patel, whose crucial 50 from 38 balls earned him the man-of-the-match award, said he was sure the victory would be a game-changer for the sport.

"Of course, beating Pakistan in a World Cup is going to open many doors for us," he said.

"Obviously hosting the World Cup in the USA and performing here as a team, it helps us to grow cricket in the USA ... and playing against Pakistan for the first time in the World Cup and beating them - it was an unbelievable performance from our side," he said.