MUSCAT: Hugely talented Aqib Ilyas bowled and batted Oman to yet another emphatic win against Nepal, forcing the hosts to do his bidding as he cut, pulled and drove his way to an unbeaten 109 in a Tri-Series game here in Kirtipur on Monday.
Used to dominating good sides particularly on home turf, Oman, it seems, has taken the same formula abroad and applied it to perfection for three wins out of three games in the triangular series which is a part of the ICC Cricket World Cup League 2. USA is the third team in the fray.
Monday’s 8-wicket victory against Nepal has taken Oman to the top of the seven-team competition in which it is battling for points against USA, Nepal, Scotland, Namibia, UAE and PNG to qualify for the World Cup 2023 in India.
Oman has gathered the highest 12 points from 9 games so far, ahead of USA’s 12 from 10 and Scotland’s 9 from 8. After Tuesday’s rest day Oman will be back in action with its last game of the series against USA, followed by Nepal versus USA the next day to complete the tri-series fixtures.
Oman coach Duleep Mendis was obviously delighted.
“It’s great to see Oman on top of the table. We had a brilliant game today against a very good side. Aqib and Zeeshan were outstanding today. We wanted Zeeshan to stay on the crease with Aqib so that the right-hand, left-hand combination could upset the bowlers and it turned out to be so for the rest of the innings. When you win matches like this your confidence level goes sky high,” he said.
“Playing matches in different playing conditions around the world on difficult pitches out there and coming out victorious is fantastic to say the least,” Mendis added.
Pankaj Khimji, chef de mission and team’s mentor, said the victory was particularly wseet as it was achieved in foreign conditions both from climate and pitch points of view.
“Our boys have adopted wonderfully and the results are a testament to their commitment. The manner in which they paced their innings in the last two games speaks volumes about how much they have matured and grown. They deserve every possible credit for their achievements so far. Let’s not forget the role of Duleep and the support staff. Absolutely brilliant. We couldn’t have asked for more,” added Pankaj who is also a senior Oman Cricket Board member.
Nepal batted first but found itself subdued by Oman’s tight bowling and sharp fielding though it still hoped to post a big total on the board if someone down the order could play a little gem. Aqib’s introduction to the attack took the stuffing out of that dream as he grabbed four wickets in his 10-over spell for only 36 runs. Nepal had to settle for 249 for 8 in 50 overs. Man in form Muhammed Nadeem bowled another terrific spell, taking 3 for 44 to keep the hosts on the back foot for much of the time. Captain Gyanendra Malla topscored with a solid 56.
Oman openers got their side off to a steady start with a 49-run partnership in 11 overs before Jatinder Singh fell for 23. Nepal felt it can find its way back in the game when Khawar Ali was bowled by Sushan Bhari for 41. However, Aqib and captain Zeeshan Maqsood combined to keep Nepal on the leather hunt for the rest of the innings, taking Oman to its third victory in the 48thover. Aqib remained unbeaten at a stroke-filled 109 while Maqsood scored a gritty 68 not out.
Brief scores: Nepal 249 for 8 in 50 overs (Gyanendra Malla 6×4, 1×6, Paras Khadka 38 – 6×4, 1×4, Binod Bhandari 35 – 5×4, Kushal Malla 28 – 2×4, 2×6. Aqib Ilyas 4-36, Muhammed Nadeem 3-44) lost to Oman 250 for 2 in 47.2 overs (Aqib Ilyas 109 not out – 12×4, 1×6, Zeeshan Maqsood 68 not out – 8×4, Khawar Ali 41 – 6×4, Jatinder Singh 23 – 3×4) by 8 wickets.