Oman on the brink of ODI status
A third successive win for Oman in the ongoing ICC World Cricket League Division Two in Windhoek, Namibia, on Tuesday put Duleep Mendis' men on the brink of achieving an historic achievement - an ODI status.
The comfortable seven-wicket win against Hong Kong on Tuesday has all but assured Team Oman the status after three wins in three games to keep it top of the six-nation table with six points. Namibia and the US are behind with four points while Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea (PNG) have two points each. Canada is yet to open its account.
The top four finishers in Namibia will earn ODI status and join the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup League Two - where they will play 36 ODIs over a two-and-a-half year period.
Only an unlikely set of results over the final two rounds of group matches can deny the Omanis. US and Namibia are also in good shape to secure a top-four spot after picking up their second victories on the third day of action - the Americans easing to a ten-wicket win over PNG and the hosts beating Canada by 98 runs.
On Tuesday, Oman's perfect start was maintained, once again, by its bowlers who restricted Hong Kong to a modest 176 in 48 overs.
Bilal Khan was at his fiery best as he claimed four for 30 including a double strike in the 48th over to wipe off Hong Kong tail.
He had earlier got the prized scalp of skipper Anshuman Rath, who had made 114 and 85 in his first two innings this week. Khan, who was later named the man of the match, also dismissed Tanwir Afzal to derail the rival innings, which was struggling at 47 for four at one stage.
Leg-spinner Khawar Ali had the batsmen in a spin as he picked three for 35, including wickets of opener Jamie Atkinson (19), top-scorer Babar Hayat (56) and Aizaz Khan (10).
Kaleemullah (1-24) and Ahmed Fayyaz Butt (1-37) gave support to keep Oman’s stranglehold on its opposition.
Only a 62-run fifth-wicket stand between Hayat and Afzal (32) and a handy 26 from wicketkeeper Scott McKechnie helped Hong Kong reach 176.
However, three wickets in Khan's ninth over - including McKechnie’s run out - saw Hong Kong all out for 176 with 12 balls remaining.
Oman's chase was expertly crafted with an opening-wicket partnership of 79 between Jatinder Singh (65 off 96) and Khawar Ali (28 off 59).
After Ali's run out by Ehsan Nawaz in the 22nd over, Aqib Ilyas (27 off 25) and then Mohammad Nadeem (31 n.o.) kept the scoreboard moving.
Oman skipper Zeeshan Maqsood (14 n.o) hit the winning run after Singh had holed out for 65 to secure a easy triumph with 27 balls remaining.
Brief scores: Hong Kong 176 in 48 overs (Hayat 56, Afzal 32; Khan 4-30, Ali 3-35) lost to Oman 173-3 in 45.3 overs (Singh 65, Nadeem 31 n.o).
We are on a roll: Mendis
Following the third successive win, Oman's coach Duleep Mendis expressed his happiness and praised his boys.
In his remarks to Muscat Daily from Windhoek, Namibia, after Oman moved on the cusp of securing ODI status, Mendis said, “It is a great victory. Three in a row is impressive. My boys are playing extremely well and are full of confidence.
“The bowlers are doing exceptionally well and again they restricted the opposition to a small score. The batsmen are also performing. We are on a roll. I am happy that we have defeated three strong sides.”
However, the Sri Lankan great warned his players to be complacent and said, “We would take one game at a time. A win tomorrow [vs Namibia] will secure us the ODI status but I am looking forward to winning the remaining two games. We can talk about it [ODI status] after that.”