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Cricket World Cup: U.S. men's team pulls of a major upset by beating Pakistan

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A very old commercial celebrates American things. It said we love baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. All those things still have their fans, I guess, but if you redid the commercial today, you might have to include cricket.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Cheering).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The red, white and blue of USA has overcome the 2022 finalists.

INSKEEP: That's the sound as the United States men's team defeated Pakistan in Dallas yesterday at the T20 cricket world cup. Wow. Jack Hope is following all this. He co-hosts "The Cricket Podcast" in the U.K. Welcome to the program, sir.

JACK HOPE: Hello, Steve. How you doing?

INSKEEP: I'm doing OK. I feel the need to explain for some large part of our audience what cricket is. Is this fair - it's a little like baseball, but not really like baseball at all.

HOPE: Yeah. It has, like, the same skills that you'd require in baseball. You need to be able to throw and hit and catch and things like that, but the rhythms of the game are quite different. Yeah.

INSKEEP: OK. And we have a game that is huge in large parts of the world, including South Asia, huge, huge sport in Pakistan, which had a great team. So how did the Americans beat them?

HOPE: Well, it's a classic David v. Goliath story, isn't it? How did America beat them? What happened is that America played really good cricket on the day. They caught well, they fielded well, they batted well. And then when it came to the crunch at the end of the game, they were better under pressure. Their batters executed. And their bowler, Netravalkar, was excellent with the ball.

INSKEEP: Can I just understand this is, like, overtime at the end of the game, right? There's tied at the end...

HOPE: Yeah.

INSKEEP: Go on.

HOPE: Yeah. It's kind of like that. It's like one extra innings, except the innings is really short, if that kind of makes sense. Like, instead of playing a whole game once more, you take a really, really small part of that. Maybe like a penalty shoot out in soccer. And that decides the winner.

INSKEEP: Can we get some of the cultural backdrop here? Has - I know that there have been a lot of changes in the United States. I can remember myself many years ago doing a story in New York City about tons and tons of people playing cricket in New York City parks. Is this sport gaining in popularity in the United States?

HOPE: That seems to be the case. So my understanding is that there are 200,000 weekly cricketers in the USA, which is, you know, about a third of the number in the U.K., so it's not a small number of people playing. According to the data that's out there, between five and 50 million people in the USA have shown some interest in cricket, and the whole point of this tournament, in a way, is to introduce the game more broadly and to try and engage some of the people that have shown that interest in the sport on an ongoing basis.

INSKEEP: Oh, so it was a strategic move to hold this tournament in the United States as opposed to elsewhere.

HOPE: Yeah. Absolutely. It's a commercial endeavor, pure and simple. There's lots of investment going into cricket in the USA at the moment. There's a new tournament called Major League Cricket, which is going into its second season. They'll be starting in about a month's time. And yeah, we're seeing a lot of money going into specific areas with a view to making a big niche sport. Like, I don't think the expectation is it will overtake baseball or something like that, but it will provide something for the people that are interested.

INSKEEP: Big, niche sport. I guess we should just note - is it fair to say that in India and Pakistan and the U.K. and some other places, this is the sport or one of the handful of sports?

HOPE: Oh, absolutely. In India and Pakistan, it's the No. 1. There's a reason it's the second most watched sport in the world, and it's those two countries, basically.

INSKEEP: Jack Hope, co-host of "The Cricket Podcast" in the U.K. Thanks so much.

HOPE: Cheers. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.