Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Breakneck Singh century sees Oman crush Nepal on ODI return. [File picture] Singh's ton ensured the hosts would cruise to the 197-run target with almost 19 overs to spare
[File picture] Singh's ton ensured the hosts would cruise to the 197-run target with almost 19 overs to spare
Jatinder Singh struck a record-breaking century off just 60 balls to see hosts Oman seal a crushing five-wicket win over Nepal on their return to ODI cricket after an 18-month hiatus, consolidating their position at the top of the CWC League 2 table. Singh's ton ensured the hosts would cruise to the 197-run target with almost 19 overs to spare, laying down a marker in their opening fixture of the first of two home League 2 tri-series to be played at Muscat over the coming weeks.
Nepal had initially looked set to post a competitive score after skipper Gyanendra Malla won the toss and elected to bat, but a blistering second spell from left arm quick Bilal Khan broke the back of the Nepali innings after Aasif Sheikh's maiden ODI fifty had seen the visitors build a promising platform. Sheikh had taken Nepal to 100-2 before two wickets for off-spinner Nestor Dhemba opened up the other end, a needless run-out compounded Nepal's difficulties, and Khan ruthlessly exploited the opening taking three consecutive wickets including that of Sheikh for 90. A late rally led by Karan KC took Nepal as far as 196 before being bowled out with 14 balls remaining, but in retrospect that would prove well short of a challenging target.
Oman would make light of the total, Singh's early onslaught blind-siding Nepal's seamers, and the end of the powerplay Oman were well over half-way to the target and Singh was on 78 off just 32 deliveries. An injury to star legspinner Sandeep Lamichhane, who went down in the field during the initial carnage, only added to Nepal's woes, and despite slowing up somewhat as the field spread and wickets fell at the other, Singh would complete the fastest century ever struck in League 2 or its predecessor, the World Cricket League Championship. Despite his spectacular dismissal shortly after reaching that milestone, he had put Oman well in control of the match, and Mohammad Nadeem would see the hosts comfortably home.
Bilal Khan had gotten the home side off to a perfect start, striking with the second ball of the match to remove the in-form Kushal Bhurtel, doing so with a full and angling delivery with a bit of extra away movement. Khan's new-ball partner Kaleemullah might have had reward in his first over too, extra bounce from the tall right-armer drawing the top edge on the cut from Sheikh, but the chance was put down at third man.
Sheikh would make the most of the reprieve, as together with his captain he rode out some early hostility form Khan and Kaleemullah, but just as the momentum had shifted back in Nepal's favour a lapse in concentration saw Malla slash a wider delivery from Mohammad Nadeem into the hands of backward point. Sheikh continued to make the most of his good fortune, lucky to survive a tight run-out chance in the 16th over as Jatinder Singh scored a direct hit from close range, but together with Rohit Paudel he would take Nepal to three figures without further loss
Debutant Ayaan Khan, brought on to break the partnership, looked genuinely threatening and found the edge repeatedly but through the vacant slip cordon, before a mishit slog-sweep from Paudel found a fielder, coming down for Nadeem at long on. The regulation catch, though, was put down. Paudel did not ride his luck far however, slashing Nester Dhamba straight into the hands of Sandeep Goud at point. Keeper Binod Bhandari would gift Dhemba a second wicket, holing out on an ill-considered slog sweep, before Goud ran out Sompal Kami three overs later.
With Nepal reeling on 130-5, Oman skipper Zeeshan Maqsood looked to press the advantage by bringing back his opening bowler, and Khan's reintroduction would prove an inspired move. An inswinging yorker almost had Kushal Malla LBW without scoring, but though the finger stayed down, it wouldn't stay by the umpire's side for long.
On the final ball before drinks Khan produced a perfect inswinger to ping back Malla's off stump before Sheikh, clearly struggling with the heat, played around a low full toss soon after the break and likewise found this stumps rearranged. A slower yorker did for Bikram Sob two balls later to reduce Nepal to 156-8.
Karan KC would show his customary defiance in the company of first Lamichhane and then Sob, his rearguard 21 taking the visitors to 196 before he fell to Maqsood with 14 balls left unused.
Though the 197-run target looked at least 30 runs short of par, Nepal might have hoped that given the form of Lamichanne, coming off a career best 6-11 against Papua New Guinea just a week ago, combined with the absence of the injured Khawar Ali and Aaqib Ilyas in the Oman top order, it might yet prove defensible.
Jatinder Singh rapidly disabused them of any such notions as he launched into a brutal assault on Nepal's struggling seam section. After a comparatively sedate opening over from Sompal Kami featuring only a single boundary, Singh took ten runs off the last three balls of Bikram Sob in the second. Despite the loss of new opening partner Shoaib Khan, who holed out off Karan KC in the fourth over, Singh only accelerated from there. Every ball of the fifth over crossed the rope as Singh took the hapless Sompal Kami for fully 30 runs, bringing up his fifty in the next off just 21 deliveries.
The introduction of spin did little to slow Singh though the dismissal of first Ayaan Khan and then Zeeshan Maqsooh at the other end, both caught by Aashif Sheikh off the bowling of Sushan Bhari and Kushal Malla respectively, did see the flow of runs abate somewhat.
Singh was joined by Mohammad Nadeem in the 14th over with the score at 122-3 and the required rate under 2 an over, and the pair seemed to switch into accumulation mode. Quite remarkably, after his initial onslaught Singh would go full 12 overs without hitting a boundary. Yet when he finally did, carving Kushal Malla through the covers on the first ball of the 26th, the shot brought up the fastest century ever struck in the top-tier Associate competition. Coming off just 60 balls, Singh's century eclipsed Karim Sadiq's 100 off 72 for Afghanistan against the Netherlands in 2012 in the World Cricket League Championship, and even JP Kotze's century off 62 deliveries for Namibia against Hong Kong in the final WCL Division 2 in 2019. Of Associate batsmen, only Ireland's Kevin O'Brien can boast a faster century in ODIs in his famous 50-ball ton against England at the 2011 World Cup.
Singh would treat spectators to one more boundary, switch-hitting Malla for four more on the next ball before falling victim to a spectacular one-handed catch on the rope from Rohit Paudel on the next, with the fielder throwing up a hand to hold the catch as he raced along the rope — showing the presence of mind to release the ball before his momentum carried him over, and returning within bounds to complete an extraordinary catch.
It would come too late for Nepal, however. With 162 on the board and six wickets remaining, Oman had the game well in hand. Suraj Kumar would join Nadeem to keep the momentum going, hitting Karan KC for three fours in four balls before being caught for a brisk 20 off 16 on the last ball of the 29th. 13 balls later Nadeem would finish things off in style, pulling Bikram Sob high over the square leg boundary to seal the win with 18.5 overs to spare, finishing unbeaten on 38 from 65 balls.
The win consolidates Oman's position at the top of the CWC League 2 table, having won nine of their 11 matches so far and six points clear of the USA in second. Nepal remain in sixth place on three wins from six, though with games in hand they will hope to improve their position over the course of the league. They will have two days to recover before taking on the United States again on Friday in the third match of the six-game tri-series, while Oman will be back in action tomorrow, hoping to carry their momentum into their first encounter with the Americans on Thursday.