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Confident Oman take on debutants PNG

17 Oct 2021 By ASHOK PUROHIT

OMAN VS PNG
GROUP B: FIRST ROUND
There was a distinct spring in the steps of Oman players while training at the Oman Cricket Academy Ground on Friday ahead of their clash against Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the opening match of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 on Sunday. And the chatter among the players exhibited confidence as they look to carry the hopes of the whole nation at the global event.

Duleep Mendis’ boys will be appearing in the T20 World Cup for the second time in a row, five years after they made ripples in the cricketing world by upsetting Test-playing Ireland at the picturesque north Indian city of Dharamshala during their T20 World Cup debut.

Much has changed since the epic win except for the core of the team, and the boss [Mendis]. The team, under the former Sri Lankan great, still aspires to create upsets in the cricketing world and believes they are capable of doing against even the best. It is with this belief that the hosts will enter the seventh edition of the T20 World Cup with a clear target – to qualify into the Super 12 stage.

The hosts will be making history on Sunday as they will become the first Associate nation to not only host the T20 World Cup but also play in the event.

With nearly 4,500 fans expected to cheer the home side, a victory against the debutants PNG will set them on course for a possible berth in the Super 12s. The top-two teams in Group B will advance with Bangladesh and Scotland the other teams in the fray.

All the four teams will be involved on the three matchdays, starting on Sunday, and will be followed by double-headers on Tuesday and Thursday.

Oman, captained by experienced allrounder Zeeshan Maqsood, made one change in the final 15 with allrounder Kashyap Prajapati coming in place of Khurram Khan.

On the eve of the match on Saturday, Om-an’s allrounder Aqib Ilyas, who has been in good form over the past few matches, said, “We are confident of making a winning start. We have played PNG few times and have won against them. We will give our best on our home ground.

“It is a proud moment for Oman to host the World Cup and play at home. It is a dream come true: playing in the opening match of the T20 World Cup.”

Oman have had an extensive preparations for the event since August as they took part in the ICC World Cricket League (WCL) 2 back-to-back tri-series as well as competing against the Mumbai Ranji Trophy squad over a T20 and one-day series.

Earlier this month, they hosted T20 World Cup-bound Sri Lanka team for two matches and also fielded a reserve team against Bangladesh.

Oman won against Namibia, another T20 World Cup side, in the first of the official ICC warm-up games in Dubai before losing to the Netherlands in the next.

PNG, meanwhile, have endured a tough second wave of the pandemic. Having qualified for their first-ever World Cup, they want to use the tournament as a platform to bring smiles back on their people’s faces. After all, they will be playing in front of a televised audience back home for the first time.

PNG too have had a decent build-up, having arrived in Oman early September.
They have played eight ODIs in all, two each against USA and Nepal, apart from four World Cricket League Division 2 matches against Scotland and Oman. In between, they had two intense camps and have topped off their preparation by playing in two ICC warm-up games: they lost to Ireland and Sri Lanka.

Speaking ahead of the opening match, PNG skipper Assad Vala said, “We believe in ourselves. We want to play to the best of our abilities.
“We want to express ourselves. We want to make it to the second round to test ourselves against the best teams in cricket. We don’t want this World Cup to be a one-off.”

Teams
Oman
Zeeshan Maqsood (c), Aqib Ilyas, Jatinder Singh, Khawar Ali, Mohammad Nadeem, Ayaan Khan, Suraj Kumar, Sandeep Goud, Nester Dhamba, Kaleemullah, Bilal Khan, Naseem Khushi, Sufyan Mehmood, Fayyaz Butt, Kashyap Prajapati.

PNG
Assad Vala (c), Charles Amini, Lega Siaka, Norman Vanua, Nosaina Pokana, Kipling Doriga, Tony Ura, Hiri Hiri, Gaudi Toka, Sese Bau, Damien Ravu, Kabua Vagi-Morea, Simon Atai, Jason Kila, Chad Soper, Jack Gardner.
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