WT20 : Oman makes a World Cup T20 History Debut
It started as an historic day for Oman. Wednesday (March 9) ended with the most historic, joyous win for Oman in its cricketing journey.
In its first ever match in a global event, Oman stunned the favourites, Ireland, to win a heart-stopping, see-saw thriller by two wickets with two balls to spare in a Group A contest in the ICC World Twenty20 2016.
As with most such historic victories, there were multiple heroes for Oman. Munees Ansari (3 for 37), Aamir Kaleem (1 for 27) and Khawar Ali (1 for 20) starred with the ball and helped restrict Ireland to 154 for 5 before more heroes arose in the batting unit.
Zeeshan Maqsood and Khawar, the openers, set the platform with a 69-run stand before a stunning cameo from Aamer Ali, making his debut at the age of 37, grabbed the match from Ireland with a 17-ball 32. In the end, Oman finished on 157 for 8 with two deliveries to spare.
A chase of 155 was never going to be easy, especially for an inexperienced side like Oman on a tricky pitch at the HPCA Stadium. But lack of expectations also meant it had no burden, and the freedom allowed it to express itself with the bat.
It started at the top with Maqsood and Khawar enjoying themselves and entertaining the sparse crowd. Perhaps buoyed by a brilliant catch he took earlier in the game, Maqsood began Oman’s chase on a blazing note, toying with Ireland’s pacers.
He set the tone in the first over, smashing Tim Murtagh for two fours, and hit Boyd Rankin for three boundaries two overs later. Making capital of the field restrictions, the left-handed opener threw the bat at everything in his zone and found the boundaries with remarkable ease.
Soon, Khawar joined the fun and a bit of nervousness spread in the Irish ranks. Its bowling attack had a touch of the same with a number of similar-styled right-arm pacers, and the first glimpse of a spinner came only in the eighth over.
Oman raced away to 59 for no loss in eight overs but Ireland would have believed that one wicket could turn things around. It ended up getting two from Kevin O’Brien. He first had Khawar chopping on, soon after being taken for a four and a six, and then removed Maqsood in exactly the same fashion an over later.
Oman’s biggest challenge started then. It was a test of whether it could sustain the carnage and pace its chase, especially having run into a few hurdles. Its middle order couldn’t back up the openers’ heroics and perished in pursuit of big shots. At 90 for 5, it seemed like its inexperience would cost it but out came a surprise package in the form of Aamer, who unleashed a counterattack as if he didn’t understand what all the fuss was about international cricket.
He started with a six off Max Sorensen but the thrust came in the 17th over, bowled by Murtagh. Aamer sent him for three consecutive fours in a 20-run over and all of a sudden, the equation looked very gettable at 23 from three overs.
But there would be more twists. Kevin O’Brien bowled an 18th over that cost only five runs and Rankin bettered it in the 19thover, giving away just four runs in an over that also produced two wickets. It left Oman with 14 to get from the final over but it still had Aamer, and on strike.
Sorensen was left with the high-pressure job of bowling the last over but when he started with a high full toss that was deposited to the boundary, the game slipped away. An outside edge off Ajay Lalcheta that went to the fence added to the drama, and when Niall O’Brien, Ireland’s wicketkeeper, let one pass through his legs to the fence, Dharamsala saw one of its craziest and most memorable celebrations ever.
Earlier, Ireland’s innings resembled a relay race, with each batsman running a short distance and passing the baton on to the next.
It started with a maiden over from Ajay Lalcheta, the left-arm spinner, but Ireland soon got going, Paul Stirling and William Porterfield regularly finding the boundaries in the Power Play.
The first six overs yielded 46 runs and no wickets, and Ireland seemed to have set the perfect platform. Oman needed something to go its way, and it came in the form of a superman-like effort from Maqsood to dismiss the dangerous Stirling. The batsman had played a full-blooded drive off Aamir Kaleem, the left-arm spinner, and just when it seemed like the ball had travelled past cover, Maqsood flung himself to his left to pluck it out of thin air.
The stunning dismissal helped Oman regroup and put a brake on the scoring rate. Ireland kept going through some mini partnerships – led by Gary Wilson — but Oman’s disciplined bowling meant Ireland could never get on top. The biggest blows came in the 16th over when Ansari, the pacer with an action that resembles Lasith Malinga’s, dismissed Niall O’Brien and Gary Wilson to leaveIreland 118 for 4.
It required a few timely hits from Andrew Poynter and Andy McBrine to take Ireland past 150, but that wasn’t to be enough. It wasOman’s night.