Duleep Mendis’ men have taken an unassailable 4-0 lead in the five-match series
MUSCAT – Oman’s cricket team’s head coach Duleep Mendis was “satisfied and proud” of his players after the national team took an unassailable 4-0 lead in the five-match T20 series against the visiting Afghanistan A (AfghanAbdalyan) side.
The series victory comes as a perfect boost for Oman as they prepare for the 2023 ICC Men’s T20I World Cup Asia Regional Final, scheduled to be held later in Nepal this month.
AfghanAbdalyan, who are on their maiden tour to Oman, had won the two 50-over-a-side games but the hosts came back strongly to claim the first four matches in the T20 series. The final match of the series will be played on Monday.
Duleep Mendis’ men will be hoping to qualify for their third ICC T20 World Cup in Nepal and will battle with seven other nations for the lone spot from Asia in the T20 World Cup, co-hosted by West Indies and the USA in 2024.
Speaking after Oman took an unbeatable lead with a five-wicket win in the fourth T20, Mendis said: “It has been a perfect build-up for our boys ahead of the Nepal ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier. We wanted to try out combinations and see the best possible options for the team. I am satisfied and proud that the boys have executed the plans to perfection to win four matches on a trot. We hope to make a clean sweep and head to Nepal with good confidence.”
The Sri Lankan great, who has guided Oman to T20 World Cup in 2016 and 2021 now wishes to make it three times when his team fights out in Nepal against UAE, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Malaysia, Singapore, and hosts Nepal. Oman are clubbed with Nepal, Malaysia and Singapore in Group A.
Oman skipper Zeeshan Maqsood, Aqib Ilyas, Kashyap Prajapati, Shoaib Khan and Pratik Athavale were among the runs in the four games. In the bowling department, Aqib impressed along with fellow spinners Ayaan Khan and Shakeel Ahmed. Medium pacers Kaleemullah, Bilal Khan, Fayyaz Butt and Mehran Khan also came up with encouraging display.
Oman won the first game by nine wickets and then claimed a seven-run victory in the next match. In the third match, Oman cruised to a 15-run triumph while on Saturday night, the hosts clinched a thrilling five-wicket win with two balls to spare.
Aqib slammed two half-centuries including a 46-ball 84 and 35-ball 65 in the four games while Shoaib Khan was the other batter to hit a half-century. Prajapati, Maqsood and Athavale also made notable contributions with the bat.
Kaleemullah returned with match-winning figures of 3-26 in the third T20 game while Bilal’s best spell was also in the same game with 2-22. Aqib returned with figures of 3-21 in the opening T20 game to back up his unbeaten half-century (65*) that came off just 35 balls and included three boundaries and six maximums.
Mendis said: “After the two close defeats in the 50-over-a-side games, we were keen to make a strong comeback in the T20s, and more so, as we are preparing for the Asia regional final qualifier in Nepal. The boys rose to the occasion, and it is an important series to get our rhythm and combination right against a strong Afghanistan A side.
He added: “The morale-boosting win in the first four games gives us lot of positives and we have been doing good with batting and bowling. One area of concern is fielding, and we need to keep on improving. We hope to iron out our fielding concerns by the time we arrive in Nepal. All in all, the 4-0 lead with a game remaining has given the boys a strong belief. I am happy to have tried out few combinations and though the final team composition will be finalised in Nepal, it has been a fruitful tour for us.”
Brief scores: Match 1: Afghanistan A 112/9 (Afsar Khan Zazai 29, Samiullah Shinwari 29; Aqib Ilyas 3/21, Ayaan Khan 2/10) lost to Oman 113/1 in 12 overs (Aqib Ilyas 65, Kashyap Prajapati 42).
Match 2: Oman 152 (Shoaib Khan 56, Zeeshan Maqsood 42; Zahir Khan 3/27) beat Afghanistan A 145/7 (Qais Ahmed 43; Kaleemullah 2/25, Bilal Khan 2/27).
Match 3: Oman 171/7 (Aqib Ilyas 84, Zeeshan Maqsood 40; Wafadar Momand 3/26) beat Afghanistan A 156/7 (Mohammed Shahzad 50; Kaleemullah 3/26, Bilal Khan 2/22).
Match 4: Afghanistan A 129/8 (Shahidullah 31, Fayyaz Butt 2/14, Shakeel Ahmed 2/24) lost to Oman 130/5 in 19.4 overs (Pratik Athavale 38, Ayaan Khan 30 n.o.).