Cricket: Second loss in a row for Ireland
On Saturday, when the Oman Development XI shocked the fancied Ireland in the first of the two T20 warm-up games, there were a few who remarked that it may have been a flash in the pan.
But on Sunday, the domestic side, comprising a mix of national team and its reserve strength, sent out a statement of its potential in clear-cut terms as it recorded a thrilling two-wicket win over its experienced rival at the Amerat ground.
While the back-to-back wins of Oman Development XI, coached by Ikhtiar Kazmi, brought lot of cheers to the local cricketers, what impressed most in the victories was the manner in which the Oman players handled tight situation during the match on Sunday.
Needing ten runs to win in the last over, Sandeep Goud (55 not out) showed remarkable poise and confidence to lead his team to win despite losing his partner in a mix-up on the third ball off Ireland's Kevin O'Brien.
With six needed off three balls, Goud lofted the fourth ball to a mighty six to seal the match in style.
In his remarks to Muscat Daily after the two wins, Oman Development XI coach Kazmi said, “We had the team ready for the warm-up games at a short notice. My main focus was to give my players the self-belief and the confidence of taking on a Test-playing nation, which has lot of experienced players.
“The support of Oman Cricket and our chief coach, Duleep Mendis, was crucial in our boys' back-to-back wins. I am happy that we could achieve success on both the days. It reflects the strides made by Oman Cricket, which is grooming a talented group to play at the top level.”
Earlier, the visiting team captain Paul Stirling led from the front with a swashbuckling innings of 78 from 48 balls to take his team to 170 for six in 20 overs.
Ireland brought in three changes from the team that lost the opening warm-up game - Andy McBrine, Shane Getkate and Lorcan Tucker coming in for Boyd Rankin, Stuart Thompson and Stuart Poynter.
Oman Development XI captain Twinkal Bhandari won the toss for the second game in a row and once again sent Ireland into bat first.
Stirling punched the first ball of the innings to the boundary and set the tone for a lively opening partnership.
He along with his new T20 opening partner Kevin O’Brien, put on 28 from 21 balls before O’Brien holed out for 22 from 14 balls to Rafiullah off Bilal Bhutt. O'Brien hit three boundaries and a six.
Stirling muscled to a half-century off 35 balls, eventually being dismissed for 78 that included nine fours and three sixes.
Omani allrounder Sufyan Mehmood produced a tight spell to pick three for 30 runs as
Ireland middle-order failed.
Late-innings hitting by Harry Tector (18), Shane Getkate (13 n.o) and George Dockrell (13 n.o) saw the visitors end at 170.
Ayaan Khan, Badal Singh and Bhutt took a wicket each.
In contrast to Saturday, when the hosts got off to a blazing start, Ireland put early brakes on the local side.
Ireland’s paceman Peter Chase claiming two quick scalps – both off the first ball of his first and second overs respectively. Shane Getkate then claimed captain Bhandari, his first wicket in the senior side, to have Oman at 37 for three in the sixth over.
Looking out of the contest, first game local hero Suraj Kumar counter-attacked with 37 from 32 balls. But it was Goud, the middle-order batsman, who hogged the limelight with an unbeaten 55 from 29 balls and was well-supported by Khan, who made a crucial 26.
Ireland next meets Oman in the first T20I game of the Quadrangular Series on Wednesday.
Brief scores: Ireland 170-6 in 20 overs (Stirling 78, O’Brien 22; Mehmood 3-30) lost to Oman Development XI 171-8 in 19.4 overs (Goud 55 n.o., Kumar 37; Getkate 2-30, Chase 2-33, O’Brien 2-33).