Captain Balbirnie leads Ireland to comfortable win over Oman
Half-centuries to Andrew Balbirnie and Paul Stirling, following three-wicket hauls for Simi Singh and Mark Adair, propel Ireland Men to a convincing 9-wicket win over hosts Oman at the Al Almerat Stadium in Muscat today.
Captain Balbirnie looked imperious today, playing several flashing drives through the off side and hitting three maximums in his Player of the Match performance in his second-highest T20I knock of his career to date. His unbeaten 75 came from just 49 balls, and while he was dropped twice along the way, deserved the plaudits as he left the field after hitting the winning runs with a pull shot over the mid-wicket boundary.
Balbirnie was ably supported by the – at times – belligerent Stirling, who hit his 20th T20I half-century on a pitch that played true and allowed the two openers to hit through the line of the ball with confidence. The pair combined for Ireland Men’s sixth century-partnership in T20Is, before Stirling played possibly the only rash shot of his innings, coming down the track to spinner Khawar Ali and being stumped.
Earlier in the day, Balbirnie won the toss and elected to bowl, with Ireland getting off to a positive start with Mark Adair (3-25) striking with the third ball of the innings, knocking back Kashyap Prajapati’s middle stump with an outswinger that pitched on leg but beat the bat. Oman then went on the counter-attack, led by Shoaib Khan in his second T20I for the home side. Khan struck five boundaries in the first two overs, racing to 21 from 9 balls – but Craig Young (2-22) broke through with Jatinder Singh holing out to Shane Getkate at long off.
Khan continued to pile on the runs, bringing up his maiden T20I half-century from 30 balls, but wickets started to tumble at the other end after the introduction of Simi Singh.
Singh snared an incredible 3-9 from his four overs, as the run rate began to slow and the Irish bowlers started to put pressure on the Oman middle order. At the other end for Ireland, Young and Adair both bowled impressively, mixing accurate swing bowling and using the angles to vary their deliveries through the middle-to-late overs.
From 86-3 after 11 overs, the home side lost seven wickets for 51 in the last nine overs, with Bilal Khan being the last wicket to fall four balls short on the 20 overs - Oman’s total of 137 all out looking around 30-40 runs below par.
As impressive as the bowling was, it was the Irish side’s fielding and catching that also impressed today – a series of diving outfield catches and wholehearted dives to save runs at key moments demonstrated the Men in Green were focussed today with an intensity that they will look to carry through to the T20 World Cup Qualifier next week.
The Irish run chase was completed with 17 balls to spare, mainly thanks to Balbirnie and Stirling, with Gareth Delany adding 12* at the end and gaining a valuable, albeit brief stint at the crease ahead of what is set to be a crucial two weeks of T20I cricket for Ireland, with a T20 World Cup spot on the line.
Ireland faces UAE tomorrow at 10am (local time) at the same venue.
Ireland Men v Oman Men, Oman T20 Quadrangular Series, Muscat, 12 February 2022
Oman 137 (19.2 overs: S Khan 57; S Singh 3-9, M Adair 3-25)
Ireland 140-1 (17.1 overs: A Balbirnie 75*, P Stirling 51; K Ali 1-33)
Ireland Men won by 9 wickets