Houston Challenge Review – Developing American Cricket

April 11, 2022


Put 50 of the best players in American cricket together for a week to play a series of matches preparing for the season, and what do you get? We found out last week in Houston, as three teams drawn from Major League Cricket’s pool of professional players were joined by a USA Invitational XIΒ  for a series of 50-over matches and a T20 finale on Sunday.

Differing pitch conditions throughout the week, along with a swirling wind that at times felt like it would sweep Prairie View Cricket Complex (PVCC) up and out of Texas, presented a variety of challenges for the teams. Players looked to work off winter rust and ready themselves for a season ahead that includes the return of the Minor League Cricket Championship and for the USA National Team players, a critical and busy summer of international action.

Action got underway at PVCC on Tuesday, as the USA Invitational XI claimed the first game of the series against the MLC East – Rusty Theron starring with four wickets from nine overs and Aaron Jones top scoring with 70 not out for the US team.

On Wednesday, MLC West defeated MLC East by four wickets, largely thanks to a strong all round performance by Shadley Van Schalkywk: the South African took a pair of top-order wickets and scored 44 in a match-winning lower order partnership alongside Bhaskar Yadram, who himself scored 22 and took three wickets.

The USA returned to the pitch on Thursday, with an economical bowling performance restricting the MLC Central team to only 152, former captain Saurabh Netravalkar’s metronomical action generating two wickets and Jessy Singh claiming three wickets in eight overs. The MLC team, though, had plenty to offer in the bowling department too, earning a ten run victory with both Calvin Savage and Ehsan Adil taking three wickets apiece. MLC Central Captain Corey Anderson contributed with both bat and ball to help his side to the win.

And there was a little Sportscenter Top 10 material in the field, as well…

With the USA Invitational XI facing MLC West on Friday, tricky pitch conditions made batting a challenge for both teams – and it was only thanks to a match-winning ninth wicket partnership between Harmeet Singh and Carmi Le Roux worth 31 runs that the MLC team was able to eke out a two wicket victory that neither team will want to spend too much time dwelling on.


On Saturday, the bright future of American cricket shined through on the pitch. The purpose of the week’s action, as well as the training camp that preceded it, was no better served than to develop and highlight the emergence of young American talent playing alongside experienced professionals. It was a chance for teenagers like Sanjay Krishnamurthi and Saiteja Mukkamalla to learn from the pros in the nets and in off-field preparation, and to get time in the middle against quality opposition.

It was fitting, then, that the top scorer in the 50-over series was Mukkamalla, the Plainsboro, NJ born batter who only turned 18 on Saturday. On his birthday itself, Sai had some fun with a knock of 83 unbeaten – and in the interview below, gave some insight into how important the series had been for him, noting it was the “greatest level” of cricket he had ever experienced:

Sai’s 83 was not the top score of the day, though, with Nitish Kumar stroking 109 from only 126 deliveries for the MLC Central team on the way to a total of 205. Corne Dry and Justin Dill were the star turns for the MLC East bowling attack, taking three and two wickets each respectively. Led by Mukkamalla’s 83 and a quick 73 from 81 balls by Smit Patel, MLC East coasted to a seven wicket victory.

Sunday’s finale came with a T20 game between the USA Invitational XI and a combined MLC XI, and the shorter format was no doubt welcomed by the players following a long couple of weeks on the field. And the shift in style of play brought plenty of fireworks immediately: Steven Taylor and Jaskaran Malhotra showcased some hefty hitting for the USA XI, both registering quick fire half-centuries as the invitational team rolled to an impressive total of 213. In response, the MLC combined XI was anchored by a brilliant century from Smit Patel, who continued his excellent form with his unbeaten hundred coming from only 49 balls.


However, Patel did not find enough support around him, with the MLC effort petering out at 194 runs – giving the USA team the T20 honors for the day thanks largely to a marvelous bowling cameo from Aaron Jones, who snagged four wickets in only three overs.

And so ended a significant couple of weeks for American cricket in Houston, as efforts to grow the game and provide more opportunities for players to develop and prepare for the future bore fruit. A reminder of what this is all about came with the official news on Sunday that the USA has automatically qualified for the 2024 T20 World Cup as co-hosts with the West Indies – roll on the future of American cricket!