15 July 2015
Oman shock Afghanistan to throw Group B race wide open
Afghanistan's unbeaten run ended after Oman set it a target of 145 in Edinburgh
While Afghanistan has put a smile on the faces of cricket enthusiasts around the world with its resilient brand of cricket in the past couple of years, Oman, playing in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier for the first time, surprised many with its gritty performances, beating Canada and Netherlands, and losing only to Kenya.
With that kind of a background to the Group B match at Goldenacre, Edinburgh, on Wednesday (July 15), it was not much of a surprise that the 25th match of the competition turned out to be an enthralling encounter between the two sides.
Sent in to bat on a typically cold morning, Oman posted 144 for 7 in 20 overs. In the end, that proved to be enough as Afghanistan folded for 104 to hand Oman a commanding 40-run win.
Mehran Khan, the Oman allrounder, credited the team's support staff for its improved performances that helped it to the second spot in Group B. "It is one of our best wins in the recent past," he said. "Oman has come into the fray for the first time, although we had qualified thrice to the qualifiers but unfortunately couldn't make it in the end. But this time we're doing excellent with the coaching of Duleep Mendis and Derek (Pringle) and Mazhar, the assistant coach. We've worked very hard for five months back home and fortunately it's paying off."
Afghanistan struck early in the morning with Zeeshan Maqsood (0), who had been in excellent form coming into this match, bowled off just the second delivery of the innings from Aftab Alam, the right-arm medium-pace bowler.
But losing the opener did not peg Oman back, as Jatinder Singh, its hero from the win over Netherlands, partnered Zeeshan Ahmed to add 49 runs off as many deliveries for the second wicket to put the innings back on track.
Afghanistan continued to attack in a desperate attempt to break the partnership and finally found success in the ninth over when Ahmed (29) returned an easy catch to Mohammad Nabi.
Ahmed's dismissal brought Singh and Vaibhav Wategaonkar together, with the scoreboard reading 49 for 2 in 8.3 overs. The duo then scripted another good stand of 38 off 35 balls before Shapoor Zadran had Wategaonkar caught for 11 in the 15th over.
With less than five overs remaining and wickets in hand, Oman's batsmen then decided to cut loose. Jatinder held one end up while Mehran Khan, the No. 5 batsman, assumed the role of aggressor in the partnership. Singh finally departed for a well-made 48-ball 40 studded with three boundaries and two sixes, but Mehran continued to fire, scoring 28 off 17 balls to take Oman to a formidable total with some help from the tail-enders.
Nabi, with the wickets of Zeeshan, Jatinder and Mehran, ended with figures of 3 for 28, ably supported by Aftab (2 for 38).
Afghanistan's chase got off to a brisk start, with Mohammad Shahzad, like he has done on numerous occasions in this competition so far, once again sending the fielders on a leather hunt. He struck 28 off 19 balls with the help of five fours and a six before Rajeshkumar Ranpura had him caught behind with his medium pace.
"It is a huge win for us, considering that Afghanistan are in the big league," said Mendis, the coach. "Batting first we got to a fighting total today, our fielding was excellent today, the boys took some brilliant catches and our bowling was also on target."
To view full scorecard, click here.