Jatinder and Bilal seal Oman's return to T20 World Cup

Oman 134 for 7 (Jatinder 67*) beat Hong Kong 122 for 9 (McKechnie 44, Bilal 4-23) by 12 runs

It looked like déjà vu. Just as they had 24 hours earlier against Namibia, the Oman batting order was in the midst of imploding spectacularly with a series of self-inflicted wounds.

But after being involved in a pair of run-outs, Jatinder Singh held his nerve to carry his bat through the Oman innings, including 50 off the last three overs with Naseem Khushi, to give his side a fighting chance. Bilal Khan’s yorker spree left Hong Kong’s chase in tatters at 18 for 5 before he came back with one more late wicket to secure a dramatic 12-run win for Oman and their second straight trip to the T20 World Cup. It also ended Hong Kong’s bid to reach the opening round in Australia for the third successive time.

Jatinder’s topsy-turvy innings began in ugly fashion. After he lost his opening partner Khawar Ali in the third over driving away from his body for an edge behind to 17-year-old medium pacer Nasrulla Rana, Jatinder sold out Aqib Ilyas, changing his mind on a single to mid-off in the fourth. Nizakat Khan pounced with a direct hit to beat Aqib’s dive back. One over later, captain Zeeshan Maqsood was stuck halfway down the wicket miscommunicating with Jatinder on a run to cover and Kinchit fielded to turn and fire for another direct hit at the non-striker’s end.

Three more wickets fell in consecutive overs opposite Jatinder in the seventh through the ninth to put him under heavy pressure. Mohammad Nadeem skied a slog off Aizaz Khan to backward point, Suraj Kumar edged a quicker ball from Ehsan Khan’s offspin to the keeper and Mehran Khan copped a rough lbw decision from legspinner Mohammad Ghazanfar when replays showed an inside edge onto his pad.

But from 42 for 6 after nine overs, Jatinder and Aamir Kaleem ground their way through the next eight overs to stretch the innings out and keep Hong Kong’s spinners at bay. Jatinder finally felt comfortable enough to expand his repertoire in the 15th, switch-hitting Ghazanfar over the off side for a boundary before playing the shot again successfully for four more off Ehsan in the 16th. By the time the stand ended – when Kaleem mistimed a scoop to short fine leg – the pair had doubled Oman’s score.

Kaleem’s innings might look ugly on the scorecard, making just 17 off 30 balls, but he soaked up enough time to free up the big-hitting Naseem Khushi to go full throttle at the death. Playing as a specialist bat at No. 9 in a team packed with allrounders, Khushi whacked 26 off his last eight balls. He got off the mark second ball bashing Rana over square leg for six, then drove him over extra cover for four.

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At the opposite end Jatinder switch-hit Kyle Christie for six to bring up a 41-ball fifty, then continued to switch-hit throughout the final three overs for three more boundaries. One more six off the final ball by Khushi took Oman to 134 for 7 in a furious half-century stand to end the innings.

Oman’s bowling unit took the momentum given to them by Jatinder and Khushi into the start of the chase behind Bilal’s blistering burst. Much of Hong Kong’s hope hinged on batting star Nizakat but Bilal wiped him out second ball with a full inswinger that defeated his drive to knock back off stump. Oman caught a break in the second over when Kinchit flicked Fayyaz Butt off his pads straight to short fine leg for the second wicket.

But there was nothing lucky about Bilal’s sustained barrage in the third over. An inswinging yorker cleaned up Aizaz Khan for 5 before another inswinging yorker pinged Waqas Barkat in line with leg stump to make it 13 for 4. Fayyaz then bounced out Simandeep Singh, caught by Bilal at short fine leg to make it 18 for 5.

Captain Maqsood elected to keep one over back from Bilal and Hong Kong seized on the opening to rebuild their innings. Scott McKechnie and Haroon Arshad added 52 for the sixth wicket and at the halfway stage, Hong Kong looked rock solid at 62 for 5, needing a very manageable 73 off the last 10 overs.

Khawar’s allround skills came to the fore to disrupt Hong Kong’s valiant fightback, clipping the outside edge of Haroon playing away from his body for a catch to wicketkeeper Kumar in the 12th. Ehsan Khan tried to guide Khawar to third man but picked out a delivery that was far too full and tight to the stumps, resulting in a drag on for 9 in the 14th to make it 82 for 7. McKechnie’s vigil finally ended for 44 in the 17th through another yorker, this time from Nadeem’s medium pace to trap him in front.

Bilal’s fourth victim, third clean bowled, was Rana cleaned up by – you guessed it – a yorker to wrap up one of the finest fast bowling spells of the tournament. Bilal effectively clinched the match as the last pair were left needing 24 off the last nine. They could only manage 11 as Oman outlasted their Asian rivals in Dubai’s first televised thriller of the tournament. Oman now take on Scotland in the fifth-place match at ICC Academy on Thursday for seeding purposes in Australia.

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