(ESPNCRICINFO) – Zeeshan Maqsood’s left-arm spin set it up, and a strong opening stand in which both Jatinder Singh and Aqib Ilyas hit unbeaten fifties, completed a commanding ten-wicket win for Oman against Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the opening game of the T20 World Cup 2021.
PNG had shrugged off a nightmare start when they lost two wickets and remained scoreless for 11 balls, building a good recovery through Assad Vala and Charles Amini, but unravelled from a healthy looking 102 for 3 in 14 overs to 118 for 9 in just 20 balls, with Maqsood being the demolisher-in-chief.
Maqsood took three wickets in the 16th over, his second of the innings, to rip the heart out of PNG’s innings. He ended with 4 for 20, even bowling the final over, as PNG were restricted to 129 for 9 on a good batting deck, having looked on track for 150-plus.
Oman then bossed the chase, with Jatinder in particular unfurling an array of strokes against the Oman bowlers, particularly square of the wicket on either side. Jatinder ended the chase with a thumping six over midwicket to finish with an unbeaten 73 off 42 balls. Ilyas was more sedate, but did his role with 50* off 43, as Oman got to victory in a mere 13.4 overs, giving their net run-rate a significant early boost.
Vala, Amini shrug off poor start
Bilal Khan and Kareemullah removed one opener each in their first overs, and only an inside-edged single off the last ball of the second over prevented PNG from starting their innings with two wicket-maidens. But after that start, Amini and Vala settled down and the early wobble had no effect on how they went about constructing the PNG innings. Amini was particularly free-flowing, regularly finding the fence. Vala too got into his groove and both men had taken PNG to 81 for 2 in 11.2 overs when disaster struck. Vala was unable to work a length ball from medium-pacer Mohammad Nadeem away, and it rolled back down the pitch perfectly for the bowler to collect it on his follow through. Amini, perhaps eager to get on strike since he was hitting the ball so well, had hared halfway down the pitch thinking a single was on. He had to scramble and turn back, but was never going to be in time to beat a direct hit, which is what Nadeem achieved. The 81-run stand had taken just 60 balls, and while Amini and Vala were going strong, even 160 seemed within reach.
For a brief while after Amini left, Vala took up the reins of quick scoring. The over after Amini was out, Vala was involved in a collision with Maqsood at the non-striker’s end when the bowler moved to his right to field a ball, and though the contact was not heavy, Vala seemed to fall awkwardly on his ankle and needed treatment. After that, he noticeably looked more aggressively for boundaries, biffing balls from the crease, rather than his previous mix of boundaries and runs. That perhaps brought about his downfall too, and his was the first wicket to fall in Maqsood’s adrenaline-rush 16th over. Maqsood struck with his first, third and fifth balls in the over, and suddenly, PNG went from still looking like putting up a reasonable score to battling to avoid being all out early.
Jatinder tees off
In the defence of a sub-par total on a good batting deck, PNG needed discipline from their bowlers. However, almost every over had a loose delivery, and Jatinder ensured he cashed in on practically each one. If offered width he stroked and cut through the offside, and if the bowlers dropped short, he pummelled them in the arc between square leg and long-on.
The powerplay brought 46 runs for Oman and the match as a contest was quickly dwindling. Initially, both Jatinder and Ilyas kept the same pace, unhurried because of the target but brisk nonetheless. Gradually, the tempo shifted to Jatinder pulling out the big hits, middling the ball beautifully, while Ilyas slipped into the supporting role. Jatinder reached fifty in 33 balls, in the middle of a whopping 17-run over against Damien Ravu which lasted nine balls.
Ilyas eventually got to the landmark too, taking 43 balls, and one delivery later, Jatinder had finished things off with fourth six.