Oman just a victory away from T20 World Cup spot

Sports Thursday 02/November/2023 18:12 PM
By: Times News Service
Oman just a victory away  from T20 World Cup spot

MUSCAT: Oman are a win away from securing a spot in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup for the third time after the Men in Red recorded a thrilling five-run win over hosts Nepal in their concluding group match of the ICC T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier Final at the TU ground in Kirtipur, Nepal, on Thursday morning.

The thrilling triumph ensured Oman the top spot in Group A with an all-win record and they will now face regional rivals, Bahrain, in the semi-finals on Friday with a spot in the 2024 T20 World Cup on the line.

A victory against Bahrain will secure Duleep Mendis-coached side their third appearance in the coveted ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, having earlier qualified for the 2016 and 2021 editions.

With the ICC expanding the 2024 T20 World Cup to a 20-team event, a win on Friday for Oman will give them a spot into the global showpiece event, co-hosted by the USA and West Indies, along with the other finalist on Friday.

Nepal will take on Group B topper UAE, which also had won all their three group matches, in the other semi-final on Friday.

On Thursday, Oman were put to bat first, a decision that seemed to prove right for Nepal as the hosts reduced Oman to 48 for four in the powerplay. Kashyap Prajapati and Aqib Ilyas, who shone in Wednesday’s win over Singapore, were back in the hut with single digit scores while Pratik Athavale and Shoaib Khan were (0) dismissed in a space of four balls.

Athavale muscled two fours and a six in his 18-knock 24 before he was caught by Rohit Paudel off Gulsan Jha.

Oman skipper Zeeshan Maqsood and Ayaan Khan then stitched a 49-run crucial stand before another double blow stalled the progress. Nepal’s star spinner Sandeep Lamichhane sent back Ayaan (18) and Mehran Khan (0) off two consecutive deliveries in the 14th over.

Maqsood’s fighting knock of 32 (26 deliveries), studded with three sixes and a boundary, was cut short in the next over and Oman were in danger of a below-par score at 100/7 in the 15th over.

However, a spirited rearguard action from Naseem Khushi, who blasted 25 of 14 with two fours and two maximums, along with Shakeel Ahmed’s 17-ball 22, which consisted of one six and hits to the ropes propelled Oman to a respectable score of 145 in the allotted 20 overs.

Karan KC, despite being expensive, managed to secure three wickets for 43, while Sompal Kami and Sandeep Lamichhane claimed two wickets each. Gulshan Jha and Abinash Bohara contributed with a wicket each.

Chasing a tricky target of 146 to win, the hosts suffered an early blow as Oman’s pacer Bilal Khan dismissed opener Aasif Sheikh early on, leading to the exit of two more batters inside the powerplay. Nepal batters struggled against Oman’s spinners, preventing them from gaining momentum towards the target.

Medium pacer Mehran Khan was superb with the bowl along with spinners, Aqib Ilyas and Shakeel Ahmed. All three picked up two wickets each to bowl Nepal out for 140, despite late drama in the final over.

Nepal needed 26 to win in six balls with two wickets in hand. With Bibek Yadav and Karan KC at the crease, and a huge local crowd cheering them, the hosts’ hopes were raised for a victory as Yadav smashed three sixes in a row of Bilal Khan. However, Bilal had the last laugh as he had Yadav caught by Ayaan off the fourth ball to end a gusty innings of 39 off 24 balls, which included five sixes.

Nepal needed a six off the last ball but Karan KC was caught out going for a big hit to give Oman a nail-biting victory.

Karan had smashed a four and a six to contribute 15 runs facing 11 deliveries before being caught by Kaleemullah.

In the other matches of the day, UAE topped Group B with a 22-run win over Hong Kong and Bahrain made it to the semi-finals despite losing to Kuwait by four wickets.

Bahrain, Kuwait and Hong Kong finished Group B with two points each and it came down to net run-rate (NRR) to decide the other semi-finalists from the group. Bahrain with a NRR of -0.398, edged Hong Kong (-0.433) and Kuwait (-0.649).

In another inconsequential Group A match on Thursday, Malaysia trounced Singapore by 60 runs. Both the teams were out of the semi-finals race ahead of the concluding group match, having lost both their games to Oman and Nepal.

Brief scores: Oman 145/9 (Pratik Athavale 24, Zeeshan Maqsood 32, Naseem Khushi 25, Shakeel Ahmed 22*; Karan KC 3/43, Sompal Kami 2/16, Sandeep Lamichhane 2/30) beat Nepal 140 in 20 overs (Bibek Yadav 39, Kushal Bhurtel 26; Bilal Khan 3/30, Shakeel Ahmed 2/15, Mehran Khan 2/20, Aqib Ilyas 2/22).