Cricket news - Oman take top spot after convincing win

Aamir Kaleem composed a vital hand of 46 for Oman

Hosts Oman went clear at the top of the table on day two of the T20I Pentangular Series at Al Amerat with a convincing win over Ireland in the morning match, whilst Nepal opened their account with a win in their series opener, Hong Kong sinking to a second defeat in a low scoring tussle in the afternoon.

Having gone winless through last year's four-way series when they hosted Ireland the Netherlands and Scotland, the hosts now find themselves in a commanding position with two wins from two. The veteran seamer Mohamad Nadeem was the star performer, holding three catches and taking three for just 14 runs from his four overs to peg back the Irish chase after Kevin O'Brien and Andy Balbirnie had got the visitors off to a flying start in pursuit of a target of 174.

Mark Adair had struck an early blow for the Irish by pinning Khawar Ali LBW with the third ball of the match after Ireland had inserted their hosts, and his new-ball partner struck three overs later to nick off Aaqib Illyas just as the latter had begun to find some fluency. At that stage, Jatinder Singh steadied the innings with a 39-ball 40. Aamir Kaleem, batting at number five, then led the counter-attack by hitting Shane Getkate for back-to-back sixes over long on and backward square to see the hosts past the 100-mark in the 14th over on his way to a 27-ball 46. Unfortunately, he was run out four short of a well-deserved half century. A flurry of wickets followed at the death as the Omani lower order looked to force the pace, but Fayyaz Butt connected with a pair of wild swipes at Adair's final two deliveries, dispatching them over the long off rope for 12 valuable runs to take the Red Brigade to 173-9 at the break.

It would prove more than enough in the end. Kevin O'Brien and Andy Balbirnie set a positive tone in the powerplay, compiling a brisk half-century stand after Bilal Khan had drawn a miscued pull from Paul Stirling on the final ball of the first over to give Nadeem the first of his three catches. Balbirnie then found Nadeem on the long off rope off Kaleem in the fifth over, as Ireland struggled to maintain any momentum when the field spread. O'Brien fell to the same bowler/fielder combination in the 7th over, and Nadeem broke the chase in the middle overs, knocking over Gary Delany's stumps with the second ball of the 9th to begin a sequence where a wicket would fall every over for five overs in a row, leaving Ireland at 110-8 by the 14th over and all but out of the game. Adair and George Dockrell held out for 20 more deliveries, but eventually capitulated in the space of three balls as Oman wrapped up a 43-run win.

The afternoon game was a more competitive, if low-scoring affair. Hong Kong briefly threatened to claim a first win as they had Nepal on the ropes in the powerplay defending a total of just 125-6, but Binod Bhandari dug in to produce a match-winning 58* off 48 balls to see Nepal home with an over to spare. The beleaguered Hong Kongers, still without skipper Aizaz Khan, started brightly as Nizakat Khan and Ahsan Abbasi took them to 36 without loss by the fifth over, but Karan KC would strike three times in four balls to remove both openers and number four Shahid Wasif and rob the Hong Kong innings of any momentum.

Skipper Kinchit Shah and Waqas Barkat set about rebuilding, adding 63 for the fourth wicket to take Hong Kong to three figures before Shah was run out for a run-a-ball 31 in the 17th. Nepal had the best of the death as keeper Aarush Bhagwat was cleaned up by Bohara first ball and Karan returned to claim his fourth wicket, bowling Barkat for 37 in the final over to limit Hong Kong to 125-6.

The Nepal reply got off to the worst possible start as Shah had his opposite number Paras Khadka caught at short third man on the first ball of the innings. Two more wickets would fall in the powerplay - Nasrulla Rana pinning Sarraf LBW in the third over and Dependra Singh Airee nicking off to Kyle Chistie in the sixth. Another two balls later, Rohit Kumar was caught off Rana to leave Nepal up against it at 36-4. Bhandari and Aarif Shiekh combined to add 61 for the fifth wicket, however, putting Nepal back in control. With just 30 runs needed from the last five overs, Shiekh fell for a 23-ball 21, fending at a shorter delivery from Kyle Christie and falling victim to some excellent work behind the stumps from Bhagwat. Just that Bandari would keep his head and take his side home with six balls to spare.

Nepal will look to go level with Oman tomorrow as they face off against the Netherlands in the morning match, whilst Hong Kong will hope to put their first points on the board when they take on Ireland in the afternoon.