Photo credit: Peter Della Penna
Aqib Ilyas continued his history of tormenting USA, striking his third 50-plus score in his last four innings against USA in ICC tournament play to pace Oman's successful chase in a six-wicket win on Thursday in Kathmandu for Oman's seventh straight win over the Americans.
By Peter Della Penna in Kathmandu, Nepal (Twitter @PeterDellaPenna)
Oman’s stranglehold over USA in ICC tournament play continued on Thursday at Tribhuvan University Stadium as Aqib Ilyas and Mohammad Nadeem struck a pair of half-centuries to steer Oman to a six-wicket win chasing a target of 214 with three balls to spare in the second ODI of the Cricket World Cup League Two tri-series in Kathmandu, Nepal. It’s Oman’s seventh straight win over USA in 50-over cricket, a streak dating back to Oman’s opening day win at 2017 WCL Division Three in Uganda. On that occasion, Ilyas struck a bruising fifty in a Man of the Match effort but today Nadeem was given the post-match award for pairing his knock with three wickets in the first innings, his second straight Man of the Match honor.
Oman won a crucial toss and sent USA in to bat under cold and moist conditions on a fresh wicket. Aaron Jones was sent up to open the batting with Xavier Marshall, the first time Jones has done so in his USA career, after having scratched together just nine runs in four warm-up tour matches leading into Thursday’s encounter. But the move did not have the desired effect as USA’s Powerplay struggles from recent tours continued against an Oman bowling attack that continues to have their number in recent years as USA racked up 45 dot balls in the first 10 overs. Marshall struck the first ball of the match for four through mid-on off Bilal Khan, but USA managed just three more boundaries over the rest of the Powerplay as Bilal and Kaleemullah heaped pressure on USA with a consistent length.
Marshall finally fell in the ninth over to Nadeem’s second ball, beaten for pace flicking around his pads and given lbw for 13. Like Marshall, Steven Taylor struck his first ball for four by flicking a leg-stump half volley through square leg. But he only lasted another five balls before he was given out lbw on a very contentious decision in the 10th over to Bilal when Taylor was struck several inches above the top of his pads missing a back of a length ball in defense.
Monank Patel’s arrival began to ease the pressure off the typically slow start from Jones. Monank had reached 16 off 16 balls with three boundaries, including a pair of lovely back foot punches through the off side for four. But on the last ball of a nine-run over, Jones impetuously charged Nadeem and was beaten to be bowled for 12, making it 48 for 3 after 13. Oman captain Zeeshan Maqsood seized on the early advantage by attacking with two slips for his left-arm spin and the ploy paid off when Monank edged low to Ilyas at second slip to fall for 18 in the 16th over, making it 54 for 4.
Ian Holland, who had scored just five runs in four innings opening the batting throughout the warm-up matches on tour for USA, was slotted back down into the middle order and it was there that he teamed with Akshay Homraj to resurrect the USA innings. The pair added 82 for the fifth wicket as Holland showcased an array of sweeps and reverse sweeps to keep Oman’s spinners off balance. A sweep and reverse sweep back-to-back against Jay Odedra’s offspin resulted in a pair of boundaries in the 25th.
Homraj took notice and decided to chance his hand at Odedra as well, slog sweeping him for six over midwicket in the 29th. When Bilal was introduce in place of Odedra in the 31st, Homraj responded by pulling a short ball for six more. But Homraj finally fell just one shot short of a half-century for 44, bowled by a fullish length delivery from Kaleemullah. Elmore Hutchinson was promoted up the order after finishing as USA’s leading scorer during the four-match warm-up tour but the move failed to secure desired results when Hutchinson was bowled third ball for 1 missing a heave to Maqsood’s spin, making it 139 for 6.
Holland continued on to post his maiden ODI half-century off 64 balls for USA, and his second List A fifty in an American jersey after raising one in a victory over Guyana in November at the CWI Super50, when he flicked Maqsood through wide long-on for his fifth boundary. He struck two more fours in his 65 before he finally fell trying to sweep the part-time legspin of Ilyas and was bowled to make it 169 for 7 in the 42nd.
Karima Gore became Nadeem’s third victim of the day when he was bowled by a slower ball cutter for 6. Timil Patel and Rusty Theron stretched USA’s innings out into the 49th before Timil’s attempted charge at Ilyas resulted in a low catch to Maqsood at extra cover for 16. Saurabh Netravalkar heaved Ilyas for six later in the over to take USA past 200 and along with Theron scored nine off the final over before Theron was bowled by Bilal on the final ball of the innings walking too far across his stumps and missing an attempt to scoop over fine leg as USA were bowled out for 213.
Nadeem ended with 3 for 43 in his eight overs. A day after taking 3 for 30 in 10 overs against Nepal, Maqsood claimed 2 for 29 in another full quota of left-arm spin. Ilyas had 2 for 20 in five overs while Bilal finished with 2 for 41 in nine. Kaleemullah was magnificent once again taking 1 for 22 in eight overs while Odedra and Khawar Ali went wicketless.
USA struck an early blow in the field when Jatinder Singh fell in the third over to Netravalkar for 4, driving an edge that was well taken by Taylor reaching above his head two-handed. But multiple opportunities were blown in the sixth over to build off that first wicket. Marshall struggled to adapt to the low sunlight glare rising over the west side of the ground and a pair of pulls from Ilyas to him at deep fine leg could not be converted into catches.
The first occurred when Ilyas was on one as the flat pull off Theron’s bowling barely carried to Marshall reaching low one-handed on a ball that he didn’t pick up until very late before charging in. The second came on the very next ball Ilyas faced on 2. On this occasion, Marshall was cheating in seven yards off the rope and his first step off the bat of Ilyas was forward only for the ball to clear him and just land beyond the rope for six. Had he been on the boundary, it would have been a waist height chance. If that wasn’t bad enough Monank missed a golden runout chance from 12 yards at the non-striker’s end from extra cover on the last ball of the over with Khawar trailing out of his crease on 9 but a poor backup resulted in four overthrows credited to Ilyas.
Ilyas and Khawar added 66 for the second wicket as a result and were largely untroubled after the close shaves in the sixth. USA's medium pacers frequently dropped too short and on a pitch that had flattened out by the innings break, the ball sat up and got hammered over midwicket with regularity. The stand finally ended when Khawar played over the top of a pull shot on a ball that kept low from Holland and was given lbw for 31. Maqsood lasted just seven balls when he was caught at backward point miscuing an attempted reverse sweep against Taylor for 11.
However, Ilyas and Nadeem steadied the innings with a 64-run stand. Ilyas was the aggressor throughout, using his strong wrists to flick a series of fours and sixes through the on side. He brought up his half-century off 78 balls with one such flick over wide long-on for six off Timil. It was the third 50-plus score for Ilyas in his last four innings against USA in ICC competitions. He then plundered boundaries off Taylor in three consecutive overs between the 32nd and 36th to force him out of the attack and at drinks, Oman was 150 for 3 in 37 overs.
Theron returned in the 38th and claimed Ilyas with a back of a length delivery that bowled him for 72, briefly bringing USA’s fielders to life. But the energy in the field was flat through most of the innings and before long, order was restored by Oman. Nadeem patiently accumulated ones and twos with Suraj Kumar by his side. The required run rate briefly climbed above six before a backbreaking 45th over bowled by Netravalkar. Nadeem drove the USA captain elegantly over long off for six as part of a 14-run frame that eased any nerves creeping into the Oman dugout. Nadeem brought up his 50 in 78 balls a few overs later. USA had a pair of runout chances in the final overs that they were unable to convert, but with wickets in hand it is doubtful they would have mattered. After Gore misfielded at backward point to allow a two to level the scores, Kumar struck a single over cover with the field brought up to secure victory.
Theron was USA’s best bowler on the day, ending with 1 for 41 in 10 overs. Holland claimed an identical 1 for 41 in 9.3. Netravalkar ended with 1 for 42 in 10 while Taylor was the only other wicket-taker with 1 for 34 in six. After taking two five-wicket hauls in USA’s warm-up matches ahead of the first ODI, Timil went wicketless in just four overs, returning 0 for 15.
USA has a day off before returning to action on Saturday morning against hosts Nepal. The match begins at 9:30 am local time.