Monday, December 06
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19 Oct 2021 By ASHOK PUROHIT

Muscat – The drums played on in the stands from early afternoon. HayyaCricket, the anthem produced by Oman Cricket (OC) for the T20 World Cup, blared on at regular intervals at the Oman Cricket Academy Ground on Sunday.

The small group of Oman fans in the general stands didn’t mind the heat as they witnessed
history being made as Oman pulverised Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the opening match of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup First Round Group B match.

While the fans braved the heat, Duleep Mendis’ men hardly broke a sweat in their ten-wicket win to record one of the biggest triumphs at the global stage with the skipper Zeeshan Maqsood leading from the front.

Maqsood’s triple-strike in the 16th over to end with four for 20, the best figures by an Oman bowler in T20 cricket, came after the hosts’ pace duo of Bilal Khan and Kaleemullah removed one opener each in their first overs to have PNG tottering at zero for two.

PNG skipper Assad Vala (56) and Charles Amini (37) did come up with a strong resistance to reach 81 by the 12th over but Amini’s run out changed the complexion of the match and from 102 for three in 14 overs, the debutants were down to 118 for nine in a space of 20 balls with Maqsood being the wrecker-in-chief.

Chasing a modest 130 to win, Oman’s openers – Aqib Ilyas and Jatinder Singh – slammed unbeaten half-centuries as they strolled to a ten-wicket win, reaching 131 in 13.4 overs to also boost their net run-rate.

It was a tough lesson for PNG on their debut and the match did witness couple of records set by the hosts.

Jatinder became the first Omani batter to slam a half-century in a World Cup and he did it in style, launching a six, to reach the milestone and his fourth of his unbeaten 73 off 42 balls had his partner Ilyas too joining the half-century club.

Jatinder score is the highest individual score by a batter in T20Is for Oman. His innings included seven fours and four sixes, including the final one that sealed victory for the home side. Ilyas made 50 off 43 as Oman reached the target with 6.2 overs to spare. The 131-run stand was the second highest stand for Oman in T20Is and it was the third ten-wicket win in T20 World Cups. The victory gives a big qualification boost for the hosts ahead of tougher challenge against Bangladesh (Tuesday) and Scotland (Thursday).

Nightmare start for debutants

PNG had a horror start in their first T20 World Cup match as they lost the openers with no run on board for 11 balls. However, Vala and Amini stitched an 81-run stand to raise their hopes of a fightback before they collapsed like a pack of cards in the 16th over. After the shock start Amini and Vala gradually built the innings before disaster struck in the 12th over.

Vala faced Mohammad Nadeem and hit it straight to him on his follow-through. Amini in an attempt to take a run was way down the pitch. Nadeem turned around and sent in a direct hit to beat Amini to break the 60-ball partnership that threatened to put Oman on the back foot.

The dismissal put pressure on skipper Vala and in an attempt to accelerate lost his wicket to his counterpart Maqsood in the first ball of the 16th over. Maqsood picked the next two in third and fifth balls.

Jatinder-Ilyas off to a flyer

With a sub-par total, Oman openers – Jatinder and Ilyas came out with an air of confidence and soon got into the groove. The powerplay got 46 runs with both matching each other with an array of strokes around. Jatinder reached his 50 in a 17-run over of Damien Ravu that lasted nine balls.

Didn’t expect such an easy victory: Maqsood

Oman skipper Zeeshan Maqsood, who triggered a PNG collapse with his devastating four-wicket spell and was later named the man-of-the-match, said that they ‘didn’t expect such an easy win’ in the T20 World Cup opener.

Speaking at the post-match press conference, Maqsood said, “We are delighted to have got off to a winning start. Honestly, we didn’t expect such an easy win.”

The captain added, “The run-out of Amini was one of the turning points of the game. At that stage both Amini and Vala were playing well. For us, Kaleemullah’s wicket in the second over was also a crucial breakthrough as that put them under pressure.”

On his four-wicket spell, Maqsood said, “It was crucial time for us. They were batting well when I got the wickets. The collapse meant that they couldn’t put on a big total. Jatinder and Aqib played well and it finally turned out to be a cakewalk for us,” he said.

Maqsood said that the team is used to conditions at home. “We know our home conditions well. We knew that even 140 could be chased down by us. The wicket played very well in the second half.”

On the next match against Bangladesh on Tuesday, Maqsood said, “Every game is tough at this stage. We will take each match as it comes. They are a Test side and have plenty of good players. They are used to big stage but we will do our best.”

The Oman skipper said there were ‘mistakes on the field and we will try to improve upon them in the next match.’ “We need to come stronger in the matches ahead,” he added.

Oman deserved to win, says PNG skipper Vala

Muscat – PNG skipper Assad Vala said Oman ‘deserved to win’ and credit to them for their allround performance. “They bowled well but the run-out of Amini was the turning point of the match. At that stage, he was hitting very well,” said Vala, who himself scored a half-century. The skipper said, “We fought back well after being down at zero for two but 129 was never going to be enough on this wicket.”

“We will take some positives from the match. The character we displayed despite the bad start is what we will take with us. We need a lot of improvement in the next two games. Today was not our day as, we didn’t execute our plans,” he added.


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