The second of back-to-back League 2 tri-series in Texas is well underway, with wins for USA and Oman.
The hosts flexed their muscles, making the most of four matches on the new Moosa Stadium surface to post 323 in a thumping of Zeeshan Maqsood’s side, who hit back with a 13-run win of their own against Nepal on Thursday.
Do Oman have enough points in the bank already?
Oman have just two matches left in their League 2 campaign, though with 42 points on the board, their tally may already be enough to secure an automatic Cricket World Cup Qualifier spot.
On a points per match ratio, Oman (1.24) are only second to Scotland’s 1.4, who still have 16 matches to play.
Opener Jatinder Singh became the first player to pass 1000 runs for the competition as a result of the fixture disparity, with the dasher doing it in 33 innings at an average of 31.50.
The men in red play Nepal and USA one more time each in this tri-series to end their League 2 campaign, and will be the clubhouse leaders as they watch the rest of the field play out their schedule.
The class of Zeeshan Maqsood shines through again
Joining the likes of Gerhard Erasmus and Richie Berrington among other batting guns in the emerging world, ICC Associate Player of the Year Zeeshan Maqsood continues to go about his business, registering another century in the competition.
Making an unbeaten 104 * (126), the knock sits next to his 109 against the USA in 2020, though the pressure of pulling his team out of the doldrums means the recent knock could well stack up as one of his most important.
Walking out at 26/2 and losing partners at the other end, Maqsood took the side from 55/4 to 211/8 at the end of the 50 overs, a score they would ultimately defend.
Strong off the back foot through the cover and point region, Maqsood’s experience came to the fore, manipulating the field through smart leg-side play when lines were adjusted.
He brought up his century off the penultimate ball of the innings, hitting another boundary off the final delivery to swing momentum in his team’s favor.
His day was not over there either, taking 3/37 and effecting a run out to win unanimous Player of the Match accolades.
Forced Nepal batting shuffles bring no luck
Ruing the loss of Aasif Sheikh (knee) and Kushal Bhurtel (hamstring), Nepal’s shuffled side were unable to create a platform in the chase, failing to put together solid partnerships.
Heads were turned when Subash Khakurel was rushed into the squad as the eleventh-hour call-up, and his first ODI outing in over two years was not a happy return, falling to Bilal Khan for just three. Opening partner Sunil Dhamala, a recently-recalled player himself after finding domestic form, fell for 12 at the other end. Mainstay and former captain Gyanendra Malla, in spite of the injuries, remained unselected.
Dev Khanal (34) and Rohit Paudel (20) both made starts and took the score to 71/2, though fell in a mini collapse that the rest of the side could not recover from.
Brother of Aasif, Aarif Sheikh (66) played a similar role to Maqsood in Oman’s innings, though boundaries were hard to come by for his teammates, and the required run rate, particularly with Binod Bhandari at the crease (14 off 46 balls) climbed steeply.
Karan KC (8) and Sompal Kami (13), who have too often come to the side’s rescue with the bat, were unable to adjust to a tired and tricky deck, falling in the latter stages. The 45 needed from the last five overs became an impossible task, with Aarif falling lbw to Bilal in Nepal’s final roll of the dice.
Can the hosts make the most of the advantage and sweep the series?
With a previous tri-series against UAE and Scotland under their belt in Texas, there’s no excuse for the USA to push on and claim the last three ODIs of their home stretch.
Defeating Oman by 114 runs, Monank Patel’s side should be confident to claim three victories, with Patel himself beaming after his 130.
Sushant Modani compiled a century of his own, and the side now boasts a beefed up batting unit, with Aaron Jones, Steven Taylor and others well-credentialed.
Ali Khan’s five-wicket haul underlines the quick’s quality, and Patel has a number of options to keep opponents on their toes.