Oman were arguably the biggest underdogs of all 14 teams looking to seal their place at ICC World Twenty20 India 2016 when they played the Qualifier in Scotland and Ireland, but the side from ICC WCL Division 5 outperformed all expectations and won this thriller against Namibia to qualify for their first ever global event
No longer. Oman produced a stirring riposte in the group stages as it defeated both the Netherlands and Afghanistan. Now, it has secured a passage to India. For a country with a population of 3.6 million, it ranks as one of the greatest sporting achievements in its history as the sight of the euphoric squad running onto the outfield after victory was sealed was testament to.
Oman crushed Namibia by five wickets with a full over to spare, hunting down Namibia’s 148 for 9 by powering to 150 for 5 in the fourth and final Qualifying play-off at The Village in Malahide on Thursday (July 23).
It was apt that Zeeshan Siddiqui scored the winning runs, nonchalantly lifting a Craig Williams delivery over cover. No one had done more than Siddiqui, who was born in Karachi but has played for Oman since 2007, to secure the decisive victory. He turned 36 on Wednesday, and an unbeaten half-century in this landmark moment for Oman made for quite the celebration.
With 18 runs needed off 14 balls and only five wickets remaining, Oman was threatened by panic – the only explanation for Mehran Khan attempting to harrumph his second ball over midwicket for six.
Two balls off Gerrie Synman changed all that. First, Siddiqui used his feet and lifted the offspinner over long-off for six; his partner promptly ran down the pitch and hugged him in rather premature celebration. But Siddiqui did not get overexcited, and unfurled a glorious drive through deep extra cover next ball.
While Siddiqui played a decisive hand, Oman’s heist was set up by a mature display from the top three. Playing the ball late and stroking it into gaps against the left-arm spin of Scholtz brothers Nicolaas and Bernard, Jatinder Singh’s 33 was brimming with class.
History dawned for both teams at Malahide: neither side had ever qualified for an ICC World Twenty20 before, although Namibia made the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003. With few of Afghanistan’s vocal fans remaining for the day’s second game, only a smattering witnessed the game that would determine the final qualifying berth for the ICC World Twenty20 2016 in India.
Asked to bat, Namibia lost Gerrie Synman to the eighth ball of the match, attempting to sweep Ajay Lalcheta’s left-arm spin. But Namibia wasted little time in showcasing the strength of its top-order batting which helped the side register 181 for 5 against Papua New Guinea and chase down 162 against Jersey within 17 overs.
Stephan Baard made half-centuries in both those games, and here he made his third 50 of the tournament, fusing power with orthodoxy to launch through huge straight sixes and playing with intelligence and calm in his 62. In partnership with Raymond van Schoor, Baard lifted Namibia to 74 for 1 in the ninth over, a position from which it would have had legitimate designs on topping 180.
In a tournament that has been characterised by some outstanding fielding, Oman was somewhat shoddy on the park. When Baard had 33, he attempted to clear long-off and got a leading edge. Khawar Ali and Aamer Ali were both perfectly positioned to snaffle his leading edge at point, but both watched meekly as the fall bell between them. That was one of three catches put down; on another occasion, a mix-up left Baard and Williams marooned at the same end, but a panicked throw squandered the opportunity and conceded an overthrow to boot.
Yet, Oman rallied admirably to restrict Namibia to 148, with Munis Ansari’s contribution again vital. He has been likened to Lasith Malinga for his slingy, low-arm; though lacking Malinga pace, Ansari’s unorthodoxy befuddled Namibia’s lower order. He conceded just 12 runs across the 18th and 20th overs of the Namibia innings and took two wickets to boot.
While Nambia’s top four is amongst the most formidable in the tournament, their batting is liable to collapse thereafter. On this day, batsmen repeatedly fell attempting histrionics rather than giving the strike to Baard, errors on which Namibia must now brood over as it observes Oman’s players preparing for the time of their lives in India next March.
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