A well-crafted century from one down batsman Aqib Ilyas put Oman on the road to victory before the tail-enders took the hosts past USA with three balls to spare in a thrilling ICC World Cricket League Division 3 encounter at Amerat.
With this win Oman has secured promotion to World Cricket League Division 2 in Namibia next April.
The USA had won all three matches prior to the clash with Oman, while Oman had won every match chasing.
Winning the toss and sending USA in to bat, Oman strike bowler Kaleemullah removed the opposition’s top three batsman with a with a sensational opening spell bowling.
USA’s run rate was stagnant at 2,7 for a long period of time but then slowly picked up to 3 runs per over but it was not until the last 10 overs that Timil Patel and former Pakistan Under-19 all-rounder Jannisar Khan decided to wake up and get back into the scoring mode. The pair added 79 runs in 15 overs as Timil ended on 54 off 104 balls while Jannisar’s 53 took just 55 balls as improvised and used every shot that was in the coaching manual especially against Oman’s spinners.
USA eventually ended their innings on 213 for the loss of 8 wickets.
Needing 214 runs to secure a win Oman began their chase with a new opening pair of Jatinder Singh and Twinkal Bhandari who was drafted into the team in place of vice-captain Khawar Ali who had injured his shoulder in the last game and was rested. Oman who were positive of chasing any score below 230 and so it happened thanks to some brilliant batting by Aqib who notched up a well-made century to be declared the man of the match at the end of the game.
With the fall of Twinkal Bhandari, Aqib used the crease to maximum advantage going on the back-foot to pound the USA bowlers.
Jatinder Singh who was the player of the match against Denmark gave him great support with his 42 during a 94-run stand. But it was USA’s defensive tactics that cost them dearly with a couple of edges going down the vacant slip cordon. With the fall of Aqib to Ali Khan, Oman just needed 13 off 16 balls and then 9 off the last 2 overs.
With the exit of S. Mehmood, tailender Nestor Dhamba droved one to backward point which brought the total down to 2 runs from five balls and then securing a most delightful win with 2 singles to clinch a berth in the World Cricket League 2 in Namibia next year.
Speaking at the end of the match Oman national cricket team coach Duleep Mendis said, “The national team’s perseverance and hard work has finally paid off as Oman reaches the bigger platform of World Cricket League Division Two, getting even closer to the highest level of the game, after his team defeated a strong USA side in a thrilling WCL Division Three match in Amerat on Friday.
“We have been training so hard for the last few months for this success. I would have been really sad if we had failed to achieve this (promotion to WCL 2). This moment has been a result of a great efforts by the team and the Board of Directors and we had to play hard and tough to be successful today,” added the coach.
Warning his wards against complacency, Mendis urged them not to take Uganda lightly in their last game on Sunday.
“This tournament is not over yet. We have a game against Uganda and I expect my team to go out and beat them as well so that we keep our slate clean and emerge undefeated champions.”
Captain Zeeshan Maqsood was delighted at his side staying undefeated in the tournament and thanked the team management for their support.
“We were quite determined to do well in this tournament since we had, for the first time, the home advantage over other teams. I am glad we defeated a very good USA side today. The crowd support was amazing and it really boosted our morale which was already high after three wins out of three games,” added a smiling Maqsood who was all praise for vital contributions from Aqib Ilyas, Kaleemullah and Jatinder Singh.
Replying to a question about Oman’s victory against USA, Mendis said: “We had a good target to chase against a good side to beat on a good track in a good match to win (considering the fact that the winner would be through to WCL Division Two).
Talking about key moments and star performers of the game, Mendis said, “I think Kaleemullah bowled exceptionally well to give us those early wickets we so badly needed to put USA under pressure in a crucial game. All those players he dismissed cheaply were good batsmen and we could have been chasing a much bigger target. However, nothing can diminish the importance of a century and Aqib was brilliant today. A big innings was long overdue and Aqib delivered at the best possible time. I must say Jatinder and Zeeshan batted beautifully too and their partnerships took Oman close to the victory.”
Mendis said the promotion meant a great deal for the country.
“We have been up and down different levels of WCL championship. I am quite happy for the team to have reached WCL Division Two again and it’s a great news for the country. It shows we are on the right path and ready to move forward,” he said.
“Now that we have reached WCL 2, it is important that we stay there for a couple of years at least and feel the atmosphere, the type of cricket played and the level of competition there. Then we should be ready to climb the ladder again,” the coach added.
Mendis said he was happy to be associated with Oman and hailed Oman Cricket’s Board of Directors for the continued support to the team.
“International teams will succeed if they have the proper backing and correct administration which we have in Oman. We have been lucky enough to have had it from day one. You can see they are all here today to cheer the team. Not only today, in fact they have been there with the team wherever it went and I have enjoyed their support throughout our journey in recent years. What more can you ask from a cricket board? They have been a big force behind me, giving the team all the backing it needed and all the facilities it required. My sincere thanks to the Chairmain of the Board and all the directors, specially to Pankaj and Madhu bhai who have been with the team through thick and thin,” he concluded.
Undefeated Oman currently tops the points table with the maximum 8 points from the four games it has played.