ICC World Cricket: Ilyas makes ODI history for Oman
February 9 will be remembered as a red-letter day for Team Red as allrounder Aqib Ilyas became the first player from the sultanate to strike a maiden one-day international (ODI) century. His unbeaten 109 and a four-wicket haul led Oman to a comprehensive eight-wicket win over hosts Nepal in the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup League 2 in Kirtipur on Sunday.
Ilyas and skipper Zeeshan Maqsood's 167-run third-wicket partnership led Oman to its third successive win in the ongoing Nepal tri-series, which also involves US. The win catapulted Duleep Mendis-coached team to the top of the seven-team League 2 with 14 points from nine matches.
US is second with ten from ten games while Scotland is third with nine from eight matches. Chasing a tough target of 250, Oman had a cautious start with openers Jatinder Singh (23) and Khawar Ali (41) sharing a 49-run stand.
Following the exit of Jatinder, it was Ilyas' dominating display that wowed the nearly 5,000 strong crowd at the Tribhuvan University Ground.
After Ali was bowled by Sushan Bhari in the 19th over, Maqsood and Ilyas forged a solid stand with the latter benefitting from a dropped catch at backward point when he was at 37. Ilyas reached the milestone in the 46th over with a cut behind point boundary of off-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane. His unbeaten innings came off 108 balls and was studded with 12 boundaries and a six while Maqsood's 68 off 79 had eight boundaries as Oman reached the victory target in 47.2 overs.
Earlier, Ilyas' spinning arm saw him pick four for 36 while in-form Mohammed Nadeem took three for 44 as the hosts were restricted to 249 for eight. Skipper Gyanendra Malla top-scored with 56 while Paras Khadka made 38. Kushal Malla, who became the youngest batsman to score an ODI halfcentury on Saturday, against the US, made 28. Other run-getters were Aarif Sheikh (28) and wicketkeeper Binod Bhandari (35).
The left-handed Kushal's 50 on his ODI debut against US was achieved at the age of 15 years and 340 days. He broke the record held by his compatriot Rohit Kumar Paudel, who was only 16 years and 146 days old when he scored 55 in an ODI against the UAE last year.
Amazing feeling, says Ilyas
Later speaking to mediapersons, Ilyas said that it was an 'amazing feeling' scoring a century and picking four wickets.
“The feeling of becoming the first Oman player to score an ODI century is yet to sink in. I am very happy that my allround show helped my team to victory in a game.
It was a good game for both the teams as Nepal scored a challenging total and we chased it successfully,” said Ilyas, who plays for Passage to India (PTI) in the top-flight domestic league.
The younger brother of former Oman cricketer Adnan Ilyas, the 27 year old Aqib has played ten ODIs and made his debut against Namibia in April 2019. “We started off with a good partnership with Zee [Zeeshan Maqsood] and it was a tricky chase against some good Nepal bowling attack.
“After picking four wickets, I had slight injury scare but my coach told me to go and play positive cricket. It was our day and a great victory.”
Ilyas had a word of praise for the Nepal fans who turned up in large numbers and said that 'it was an amazing crowd'. “The best crowd support I have ever seen in my life. They not only cheered their team but acknowledged even when we played good shots.
This is the reason why I acknowledged the crowd on reaching my century,” he said. Chief coach and Sri Lankan great Mendis was delighted after the victory.
“It’s great to see Oman on top of the table. We had a brilliant game today against a very good side. Aqib and Zeeshan were outstanding today. We wanted Zeeshan (left-handed batsman) to stay on the crease with Aqib so that the right-left combination stays. When you win matches like this, the confidence level goes sky high,” he said.
“Playing matches in different playing conditions around the world on difficult pitches out there and coming out victorious is fantastic to say the least,” added the coach.
Senior Oman Cricket board member Pankaj Khimji said, “Our boys have adapted wonderfully to conditions in Nepal and the results are a testament to their commitment. They deserve every credit for their fantastic achievements so far along with coach Duleep [Mendis] and the support staff.”
Brief scores: Nepal 249-8 (Gyanendra Malla 56, Khadka 38, Bhandari 35; Ilyas 4-36, Nadeem 3-44) lost to Oman 250-2 in 47.2 overs (Ilyas 109 n.o., Maqsood 68 n.o., Ali 41).