US beats Pakistan in World Cup cricket shocker

In their Group A game, the US pulled off a sensational win against Pakistan in a thrilling match in which the score was tied at 159 runs each after the regular 20 overs but then won 18-13 in the ‘super over’ tie-breaker. It is hard to think of a good comparison that would give those who do not follow cricket a sense of how big an upset this was. It is like a college football team beating an NFL team, since the US team consists of amateurs who have regular jobs while the Pakistanis are seasoned professionals who do this for a living.

The US is participating in the World Cup for the first time and only because it got an automatic entry because it is a co-host. Pakistan, on the other hand, is a perennial powerhouse that made it to the finals of the last World Cup and its match next week against favorites India is expected to draw a viewership that is five times that of the Super Bowl, while this is the just the second game ever for the US. In their first Group A match the US defeated Canada and they still have to play India and Ireland in their group. For them to defeat India would be for lightning to strike twice but defeating Ireland is not unrealistic and if they do so, they would likely end up second in their group next to India and thus qualify for the next round. Part of the reason that the US was chosen to co-host this World Cup with West Indies was to help popularize the sport in this country and this win will undoubtedly help in that effort. This win has already created considerable media coverage.

Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world but can it appeal to a mass US audience? It has long been held to be unlikely and the reasons given are many. It was said to be too slow, that the games take too long, and that the fact that a game can end in a no-decision was a real turn-off. Those criticisms have validity when applied to the traditional form of the game that lasts for several days (five in the case of international (‘Test’) matches that are favored by purists) but none of them apply to the T20 format that has become increasingly popular.

These games last just about three hours (that seems to be the preferred length for mass sports in the US) and are guaranteed an outcome, since each batting side faces just 20 ‘overs’ (i.e. 120 deliveries) and the side that scores more runs in that quota wins. It is high scoring, something that US audiences seem to desire (the criticism leveled against soccer in the US is that scoring is rare) with teams routinely scoring 150 or more runs.

As to being too slow, I am baffled by that criticism since American football and baseball, so popular, are both excruciatingly slow. If one defines ‘action’ as the amount of time when the ball is actually in play, baseball has just about 18 minutes of it. Football is even worse, with just 11 minutes of action. Soccer, by contrast, has about 58 minutes.

I myself am not a huge fan of the T20 cricket format, seeing it as prioritizing big hitting and defensive bowling and fielding over the many other features and subtleties that are make the long format games so absorbing. But there is no question that it is more action-packed and that explains the huge rise in popularity it has experienced worldwide. I could not find a comparable figure of action time for T20 cricket but I cannot imagine that is it anywhere near as low as for baseball. And given that there is a lot more subtlety and variety involved in both bowling and batting in cricket than in baseball, I think that a case can be made that cricket should be objectively more appealing to a mass audience than baseball.

But when it comes to sports, traditions are powerful and it will not be easy to wean fans away from baseball to cricket.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    These games last just about three hours (that seems to be the preferred length for mass sports in the US) and are guaranteed an outcome…

    The England Scotland match was a no-result. Doesn’t matter how good you are. Points deducted for weather, yech.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    If the US is more successful, it will obviously help the sport to reach a wider audience.

    As for the inherent benefits of the sport you have to ask someone who actually understands cricket, baseball or american football (I can see cricket is less likely to maim or kill the players than football or hockey but so is staying at home on the couch).

    (I assume the west indies teams do most of their training in winter, as high humidity coupled with the extreme temperatures around the caribbean must be absolute murder for the players)

  3. Deepak shetty says

    . a sense of how big an upset this was.

    I disagree.There is not a match or team against which Pakistan(or India) can’t lose to -- anyone who follows cricket knows how mercurial the Pakistan team is.
    On the flip side they can beat just about anyone when you’d least expect them to

  4. larpar says

    “Football is even worse, with just 11 minutes of action. Soccer, by contrast, has about 58 minutes.”
    Those numbers are a little deceptive.
    In football there is “action” when the ball isn’t in play.
    In soccer, about half the time is spent kicking the ball the wrong way.
    I am a fan of the US women’s national team. Just watched them beat Korea in a friendly.

  5. seachange says

    It didn’t make it to the Los Angeles Times? Doing a find on ‘cricket’ gets random results.

    Football is supposed to last one hour. I saw Superbowl II (and got razzed for watching it, it was a nothing and nobody game in the opinion of most people that why would anyone would think to watch it). It was short-ish, like most televised games were then maybe one and a half hours. Football games took as long as they did and there was no streaming. This meant that sometimes they would go ‘over’ and this would cause arguments over the single TV that we owned.

    Football today lasts three because of advertising bloat and the networks deciding that paying people to go blah blah blah allows them to put even more commercials in. If a game of T20 takes three hours, then once it gets televised it will be nine.

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