Muscat: Making a perfect start to another tri-series thousands of miles away in the mountainous Kirtipur town of Nepal, Oman handed the hosts a precious lesson on how small totals could be defended with big hearts. Safeguarding a small total of 197 in freezing cold, Oman made it look like an Everest to climb for the Nepalis, catching them short by 18 runs in a game that kept swinging both ways like a pendulum.
Oman coach Duleep Mendis said he was quite confident of defending the small total because of the weather and pitch condition. “I kept my finger crossed because of the bowling attack that we have. There were a few lapses in the field otherwise we would have made it a bit earlier,” added a delighted Mendis.
Pankaj Khimji, Oman Cricket Board member and Chef de Mission on the tour, said the team showed great character fighting all the way on a pitch that had vicious turn. “Our fast bowlers made a phenomenal impact early on and then Zeeshan and Khawar bowled magnificently, making life difficult for Nepal on their own turf. Overall, we played well and fielded well, barring a couple of chances that should have gone our way. Congratulations Oman, well done,” Pankaj added.
Finding itself bat on a pitch that turned square, Oman rode on Muhammed Nadeem’s magnificent 69 not out to post a fighting total with the late order help of two little gems from Sandeep Goud (36) and Naseem Khushi (28). Oman’s skilled pacers Bilal Khan and Kaleemullah made sure Nepal would not have an easy ride from the word go, keeping them under constant pressure with their nagging line and length and a couple of early strikes.
Nepal fought back with a couple of partnerships and looked well set for a probable win at 116 for 5 in 33 overs. Oman bounced back as leggie Khawar Ali dismissed a well set Binod Bhandari (26) while Kaleemullah came back to end Karan KC’s innings before it began, reducing the hosts to 124 for 7 in 37 overs.
Riding on a rapid 38-run partnership between captain Sharad Vesawkar (55) and Sandeep Lamichhane (28), Nepal looked like cruising to victory at 162 for 7 in 43 overs when Oman’s man with the golden arm Aqib Ilyas broke the dangerous alliance, clean bowling Vesawkar to bring his team back in the game again.
Maqsood struck from the other end, sending Lamichhane back to the pavilion as Oman made the final fling for a come-from-behind victory. It took Oman 10 more balls to put an end to a see saw battle, bowling out Nepal for 179 in 46.5 overs.
Oman takes on USA today in what could be another gripping contest. Brief scores: Oman 197 for 9 in 50 overs (Muhammed Nadeem 69 not out – 5×4, 2×6, Sandep Goud 36 – 3×4, 1×6, Naseem Khushi 28 – 2×4, 2×6, Zeeshan Maqsood 20 – 4×4. Karan KC 4-47, Sushan Bhari 3-14) beat Nepal 179 all out in 46.5 overs (Sharad Vesawkar 55 – 5×4, Dipendra Singh Airee 36 – 5×4, 1×6, Sandeep Lamichhane 28 – 3×4, 1×6, Binod Bhandari 26 – 2×4, 1×6. Zeeshan Maqsood 3-30, Kaleemullah 2-22, Bilal Khan 2-36, Muhammed Nadeem 1-10) by 18 runs.
Text by Shahzad Raza