Oman on the brink of history

Sports Saturday 20/April/2024 20:34 PM
By: Times News Service
Oman on the brink of history

MUSCAT: Oman cricketers stand on the verge of making history as a victory on Sunday against the UAE in the final of 2024 ACC Men’s Premier Cup T20I will secure Duleep Mendis’ men a maiden berth in the coveted 2025 ACC Asia Cup. The final will begin at the Oman Cricket Academy ground at 2.30pm.

Oman aim to extend their impressive winning streak in the ongoing tournament, having triumphed in all five of their previous matches. However, they remain cautious of their neighbours, who boast previous experience in qualifying for the T20I Asia Cup back in 2016.

Earlier, hosts Oman and UAE recorded contrasting victories in the semi-finals played at the Oman Cricket Academy ground on Friday.

Oman rode on all-rounder Aqib Ilyas’ brilliance, who hit a responsible unbeaten half-century and bagged three wickets, to defeat Hong Kong by five wickets in the second semi-final while UAE upset favourites Nepal earlier in the morning by six wickets.

The victories also assured Oman and the UAE a spot in the 2024 ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup, scheduled to be held in November-December in Sri Lanka.

On Saturday, Hong Kong defeated Nepal by four wickets in the third place playoff match to seal the third and final spot in the Emerging Teams Asia Cup.

The winner of Sunday’s title clash will join continental powerhouses India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh in the third edition of the Asia Cup in 2025.

On Friday, chasing 131 to win after Hong Kong were restricted to 130/9, Oman had a disastrous start with opener Kashyap Prajapati caught behind off the first ball from Ayush Shukla and Naseem Khushi back in the hut in the next over after a four-ball 10 with a six and a boundary.

At 19/2, Ilyas and Pratik Athavale stopped the slide with a 23-run stand before the latter departed for 11 and the hosts struggled at 42/3. Skipper Zeeshan Maqsood and Ilyas saw through the powerplay overs without any further damage and Oman’s 50 came off in 6.4 overs as the duo counter-attacked before Oman’s captain departed after a 23-run stand in the ninth over, the second wicket for Aizaz Khan.

With the match swinging like a pendulum and Oman 67/4, Ilyas and Ayaan Khan stitched a 26-ball stand cautiously before Ayaan became Aizaz’s third victim. Oman needed 40 with five wickets in hand in 30 balls and a lot was on the shoulders of Ilyas who along with Khalid Kail got Oman past 100 in 16.2 overs.

Ilyas reached his deserving half-century off 47 balls that included just two boundaries and a six. The pair batted sensibly to set a thrilling finish with Oman needing nine off the last over and Ilyas with Kail at the crease.

Ayush Shukla was handed the responsibility to defend eight runs but Ilyas blasted a huge six off the first ball to bring the equation down to three off five balls and wrapped up an exciting finish with a boundary off the next ball for a five-wicket win with four balls remaining.

Ilyas stayed unbeaten on 62 off 51 balls with three boundaries and a six to deservedly earn him the player of the match award for his all-round display, having earlier picked three wickets. Kail was unbeaten on 16.

Earlier, Zeeshan Ali and Babar Hayat made crucial contributions to help Hong Kong reach 130/9 with both batters out in 30s. Ilyas’ double strike in an over including the key wicket of skipper Nizakat Khan (19) in the ninth over was the turning point with the score at 59/4 after the team sped to 52/2 in powerplay. Ilyas also claimed the prize wicket of Hayat, who was stumped by Athavale for 33 off 37 balls.

Bilal Khan and Fayyaz Butt then dismissed the tailenders with Zeeshan unbeaten on 25-ball 36.

Ilyas and Bilal took three wickets apiece while Maqsood, Kaleemullah and Butt picked a wicket each.

UAE down Nepal

On Friday morning, United Arab Emirates (UAE) claimed a six-wicket victory over Nepal in the first semi-final.

Nepal, batting first, went into the match as favourites, being unbeaten with four successive wins. They struggled to build momentum and were restricted to just 119/ 9. Their innings was hampered by tight bowling from the UAE, particularly Junaid Siddique and Ali Naseer, who took crucial wickets early on. Sundeep Jora was a lone bright spot for Nepal, scoring a resilient 50 from 40 balls.

In response, UAE chased down the target comfortably, finishing at 123 for 4 in just 17.2 overs. Alishan Sharafu scored an unbeaten 55, steering his team with a composed innings. Despite some initial wobbles, UAE’s middle order managed to overcome Nepal’s bowling, led by Gulsan Jha who picked up two wickets.

Brief scores (Semi-finals): Hong Kong 130/9 (Zeeshan Ali 36*, Babar Hayat 33; Bilal Khan 3/36, Aqib Ilyas 3/14) lost to Oman 132/5 in 19.2 overs (Aqib Ilyas 62*, Khalid Kail 16*; Aizaz Khan 3/16).

Nepal 119/9 (Sundeep Jora 50; Junaid Siddique 2/26, Ali Naseer 2/28, Basil Hameed 2/4) lost to UAE 123/4 in 17.2 overs (Alishan Sharafu 55*, Vishnu Sukumaran 28; Gulshan Jha 2/21).

Third place match (Saturday): Nepal 139/8 (Dipendra Singh Airee 44*, Sundeep Jora 22; Ayush Shukla 3/17) lost to Hong Kong 140/6 in 19.3 overs (Anshy Rath 65*, Babar Hayat 26; Sompal Kami 3/33, Dipendra Singh Airee 2/27).