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Aaron Jones hits 10 sixes as US beats Canada by 7 wickets to open T20 World Cup

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (AP) — Aaron Jones made an unbeaten 94 from 40 balls in an extraordinary display of power-hitting to lead the U.S. team to a seven wicket win over historic rival Canada on Saturday in the opening match of the Twenty20 World Cup.

Co-host the United States seemed under pressure when Canada made 194-5 batting first and when it lost a wicket to the second ball of its innings. The total demanded the United States achieve its highest-ever run chase in a T20 international to win the match, eclipsing its previous best of 169.

In the end it reached its target with ease. There were 14 balls remaining when Jones clinched the win for the U.S. with his 10th six.

The Americans looked in a desperate position when its captain Monank Patel was out at 66-2 in the 7th over. At one point in its innings, the United States needed more than 12 runs an over to surpass Canada’s total.

But Jones, who had been out of form in recent matches and came into the match with a strike rate of 100, hit the fastest T20 half-century for the U.S. from 22 balls with six sixes and at a strike rate of 227. He finished with a career-best score and a strike rate of 235.

At least two of his blows carried more than 100 meters (328 feet) and would have been home runs at Grand Prairie Stadium in its previous incarnation as a baseball stadium.

Jones turned the match with a superb innings that pushed pressure firmly back on Canada. That pressure showed when Jeremy Gordon bowled the 14th over which stretched with wides and no balls to 11 balls and conceded 33 runs.

Jones put on 131 runs in a match-winning partnership for the third wicket with Andres Gous who made 65 from 46 balls with seven fours and three sixes. South Africa-born Gous was out just before the end, as chants of "USA, USA'" echoed around the stadium.

Jones was born in Queens, New York but grew up in Barbados in the West Indies where he played top level cricket. His previous best score in T20 internationals was 50 before Saturday when he hit the second-most sixes in a T20 World Cup innings.

“Obviously we know that Canada always come hard at us, it's a big rivalry and I was just happy to get my team over the line tonight,” Jones said. "To be honest I always thought anything under 200 was chaseable. The pitch was good and the outfield was fast as well.

“We just back ourselves, played some good cricket and we came out on top.”

Patel, the U.S. captain, also felt he had the batters in the shed to chase down the Canada total.

“Aaron has always had the game and he played fearless cricket today,” Patel said. “He was backing his shots and hitting clean. You don't hit this sort of innings every day.”

Earlier, Navneet Dhaliwal and Nicholas Kirton hit the first half-centuries of the World Cup to give Canada what seemed a defensible total.

India-born Dhaliwal scored 61 from 44 balls and gave Canada’s innings early impetus in a 43-run opening partnership with Aaron Johnson.

Barbados-born Kirton then carried the momentum through the middle and latter part of the innings, striking 51 from 31 balls to eclipse his previous best score in T20 internationals of 37.

Johnson made 23 from 16 balls and Shreyas Movva 32 not out from 16. A cameo of 11 from five balls from Dilpreet Bajwa added a bright spot at the end.

“I thought 194 was a great total. I was quite confident at that time,” Canada captain Saad Bin Zafar said. "I think Navneet and Kirton played well for us.

“We started well, we took early wickets in the power play. But Jones and Gous, they batted exceptionally well and our bowlers had no answer to them.”

The match provided a perfect opening to the world tournament. The Grand Prairie Stadium was full to its 7,000 capacity and the match provided an excellent of example of T20 cricket, a game still strange to most Americans.

While cricket hasn’t planted deep roots in the United States, it has a long history. The United States and Canada played the first ever international cricket match on the grounds of a private home near Broadway, Manhattan in 1844. Canada won the match which was played over three days by 23 runs.

The T20 World Cup will be contested by 20 teams including global superpowers India, Australia and England. The United States and Canada are both drawn in Group A with India, Ireland and Pakistan.

Tournament co-host West Indies begins its campaign Sunday with a match against Papua New Guinea in Guyana and Oman plays Namibia in Barbados.

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AP cricket: https://apnews.com/hub/cricket