The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup gets underway on Sunday when Oman take on Papua New Guinea in a fascinating opening fixture befitting the tournament's return from a five-year hiatus.
Oman first appeared in an ICC Men's T20 World five years ago; the most recent edition of the tournament. It was a successful campaign for the first-timers, who won one of their three matches. This time around, they'll have much loftier ambitions. The nation ranked 18th in the world on the MRF Tyres ICC T20I team rankings will be eyeing a spot in the Super 12 stage with two qualification places up for grabs in each of the First Round groups.
They won't have to look far for motivation either as they are spurred on by home support. Of course, they won't have things easy.
Papua New Guinea go into the tournament opener full of confidence, ranked three places higher than their opponents. And with fixtures against Scotland and Bangladesh to come this match could well determine the World Cup fate of both nations.
The travelling Papua New Guinea squad are the first group of players to represent the country at a men’s World Cup, 48 years after the nation was named as an associate member by the ICC. They came close in 2013 and 2015, losing late in the qualification process. But there was no such heartbreak this time around, with the team welcomed home by thousands of jubilant fans when they sealed their spot in the tournament. But the East Asia-Pacific qualifiers have had to wait for their World Cup bow, with the pandemic meaning there has been two years between that qualifying celebration in Dubai and Sunday’s opening match against Oman.
Oman aren’t exactly World Cup old-timers themselves, with this tournament being only the country’s second appearance at a Men’s T20 World Cup. But, as mentioned earlier, the 2021 tournament has an extra-special edge for the nation due to their role as co-hosts. For the opening week, all Group B matches in the first round will be held at Muscat’s Al Amerat Cricket Stadium, giving Oman home advantage in their bid to face off with the biggest and best in the world during the later weeks of the tournament at UAE’s higher-capacity venues.
The tournament debutants vs the World Cup co-hosts. What better way to get the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup underway!
- Match: Oman v Papua New Guinea
- Time: 14:00 local time on Sunday 17 October
- Venue: Oman Cricket Academy Ground, Al Amerat
Oman possess an experienced core that has steered them through international cricket for much of the past World Cup cycle. The fast-medium bowling trio of Bilal Khan, Mohammad Nadeem and Kaleemullah will be supported by a plethora of slow-bowling all-rounders, while the opening batting partnership of Jatinder Singh and Aqib Ilyas are strong boundary-hitters.
Possible Oman playing XI: Jatinder Singh, Aqib Ilyas, Ayaan Khan, Zeeshan Maqsood, Mohammad Nadeem, Sandeep Goud, Naseem Khushi, Kaleemullah, Khawar Ali, Fayyaz Butt, Bilal Khan
Papua New Guinea have also brought a squad packed full of all-rounders. Eight of the starting XI had a bowl in the warm-up loss against Ireland, with plenty of pace-off options at Vala’s disposal if the pitch takes turn.
Possible Papua New Guinea playing XI: Assad Vala, Tony Ura, Charles Amini, Sese Bau, Norman Vanua, Simon Atai, Kiplin Doriga, Jason Kila, Nosaina Pokana, Damien Ravu, Chad Soper
Papua New Guinea’s stand-out player is captain and batting linchpin Assad Vala. The opening batter has three T20 international half centuries to his name and forged an important partnership with Tony Ura at the top of the order during the qualifying tournament.
Vala and Ura averaged 60 for the first wicket throughout that qualifier and their weight of runs will again hold the key to Papua New Guinea’s chances at the tournament proper.
Bilal Khan is Oman’s leading T20 international wicket-taker with 51 dismissals in his 35 internationals to date.
The left-arm seamer will likely take the new ball in search of early scalps and is also a more-than-competent slip fielder.
Expert Dream11 Fantasy tips
Captaincy pick - Bilal Khan
One can't look past Bilal Khan as the top choice for captaincy of their fantasy team. The 33-year old left-arm pacer is the leader of Oman’s bowling attack. He has an impressive bowling strike rate of 14.3 in 35 T20Is. He is also coming into the World Cup qualifiers on the back of good form in the recent ICC CWC League 2 tournaments.
Must-have - Assad Vala
Assad Vala, Papua New Guinea’s captain, is a must-have for this match. The in-form all-rounder has a bowling strike rate of 13.3 in 18 T20I innings. His off-breaks will be crucial for PNG in these conditions. He is also in great recent form with the bat, notching three 30+ scores in his last four T20 innings including a fifty in warm-up match against Sri Lanka.
What They Said
Most people would say it’s just another game, but it’s not to us, it’s our first ever World Cup game, World Cup tournament, (having) qualified for the first World Cup," Papua New Guinea captain Vala said. "The approach is going to be different.”
“We are a couple of days away from playing our first World Cup match. The boys are looking pumped up for the game on Sunday. During this pandemic, it will mean a lot for people back home. We are trying to put a smile on their faces."
“Everything is set now,” Oman coach Duleep Mendis said of his team’s chances. “We have to do well to go forward, but they have the ability to do so.
“One thing I felt was lacking was the mental side. I worked on that, and to a certain extent I think it has worked. We have put them through a lot of exercises and they have come out of them.
“Still when we play against a Test nation I feel they are not hard enough. But it will come.”
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