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CWC23 Qualifier: Oman beat Ireland by 5 wickets

Oman pulled off a superb run chase to beat Ireland at the Bulawayo Athletic Club and throw Group B wide open.

Ireland would have been confident after a flurry of lower-order runs helped them to 281/7 against Oman, with Harry Tector and George Dockrell starring with the bat after Oman won the toss and elected to bowl.

But Oman chased their target down in style, with half-centuries from Kashyap Prajapati, Aqib Ilyas, and Zeeshan Maqsood breaking the back of it.

And the win came with 11 balls to spare as Mohammad Nadeem (46*), Ayaan Khan (21) and Shoaib Khan (19*) finished it off.

Andrew Balbirnie confirmed at the toss that Andy McBrine would open the batting with Paul Stirling having experimented with the idea during the warm-up encounters. Ben White was also named as an extra spinner in the team, and the side welcome back Josh Little who sat out their Test match with England. Oman largely stuck with the side that got them through the League 2 campaign.

Batting first, Andy McBrine and Paul Stirling took the attack to the Oman bowlers to set the tone early. The openers struck a boundary each in the second over that set the ball rolling for Ireland and found the boundaries with ease for most of the Powerplay.

Just when the duo looked set for a big opening partnership having just completed a 50-run stand, the short-ball ploy bright their downfall in consecutive deliveries. Stirling holed out in the deep to a pull shot while McBrine mistimed his attempt to clear the ring straight into the hands of mid-off.

The consecutive wickets halted Ireland’s momentum and put the brakes on their scoring, eventually leading to the wicket of captain Andy Balbirnie whose drive only managed the outside edge into the safe hands of Naseem Khushi.

Harry Tector, the ICC Men’s Player of the Month for May 2023, got going with two crisp drives. Lorcan Tucker too joined hands as the pair added quick runs in the middle overs to make up for the lull. Tucker smashed Ayaan Khan for consecutive boundaries but it was the left-arm spinner who had the last laugh with a ripper to dismiss the wicketkeeper-batter for an 18-ball 26.

With Oman using left-arm spin to keep Ireland quiet, George Dockrell decided to upset their rhythm with two boundaries off Ayaan Khan, taking Ireland to 125/4 after 25 overs.

Gareth Delany (20 off 14), Mark Adair (15 off 11), and Graham Hume (15* off 12) all scored quickly as Dockrell carried on at the other end.

And the 30-year-old finished unbeaten on 91* to help Ireland to a competitive total, with Bilal Khan and Fayyaz Butt took two wickets apiece in the pick of the figures for Oman.

Ireland kept the momentum going when Mark Adair had opener Jatinder Singh caught at second slip for one run.

But a partnership worth 94 between Ilyas and Prajapati laid the foundations for Oman.

Both batters reached their half-centuries before Ilyas departed for a 49-ball 52 to Dockrell, but the wicket didn’t derail the innings.

Prajapati and skipper Maqsood kept the runs flowing, adding 62 from the third wicket before the opener finally fell to Josh Little for an excellent 72.

And Little struck again to have Maqsood caught behind for 59 and give his team hope.

Ayaan Khan’s run-a-ball 21 was ended by Adair’s caught and bowled, but with Mohammad Nadeem firing to 46*, Oman closed in on victory.

And the winning runs came at the start of the penultimate over, with Shoaib Khan crunching a four to spark jubilant celebrations.


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