Opener Jatinder Singh carried his bat for an unbeaten 67 (out of a total of 134) as wickets fell around him before Bilal Khan tore through a brittle Hong Kong top order to propel Oman to their 2nd T20 World Cup, after missing their chance to qualify a day earlier when they were thrashed by Namibia.
A different narrative was shaping up at the start, however, when Hong Kong reduced Oman to 42/6 inside the first 9 overs owing largely to sharp fielding, disciplined bowling, and yet another Omani batting implosion.
Hong Kong drew first blood when Khawar Ali attempted a wild, premeditated swing to the leg side, only managing to nick through to jubilant keeper Scott McKechnie.
Things only got worse for Oman who lost Aaqib Ilyas and skipper Zeeshan Maqsood to direct hits from Nizakat Khan and Kinchit Shah respectively.
Soon after the Power Play, Mohammad Nadeem top-edged a slog off Aizaz Khan, which was gleefully accepted by Waqas Barkat.
The introduction of spin provided little respite for the Omani’s with Suraj Kumar edging through to McKechnie before leggie Mohammad Ghazanafar trapped Mehran Khan LBW off a googly that he appeared to edge.
Then it was the Jatinder Singh show. After stabilizing the innings with Amir Kaleem, he unleashed a barrage of switch hits and reverse sweeps, first against Mohammad Ghazanfar and then against Ehsan Khan as Oman’s run rate neared 5 RPO.
When Kaleem was dismissed with the score on 84 in the 17th over, Hong Kong would have hoped to bowl Oman out for a score in the region of 110.
However, Kyle Christie was greeted with yet another Jatinder Singh switch hit, which traveled the distance. Number 9 Naseem Khushi chipped in with a bruising 26 off 9 balls, which included a swipe over mid wicket for 6 and another maximum that flew over long on off the final ball of the innings.
With 50 runs coming off the last 3 overs of the innings, Oman were literally jumping for joy in the dugout. And they made the most of their newfound momentum when spearhead Bilal Khan dismissed danger man Nizakat second ball with an inswinger that did for his leg stump.
Kinchit Shah then whipped a leg stump half volley straight to Naseem at fine leg leaving Hong Kong with the unenviable task of chasing down a target without their two best batsmen.
Bilal Khan continued to get sharp swing into the right-hander. Aizaz Khan was undone by a ferocious yorker, which was a strong contender for ball of the tournament, before Waqas Barkat was trapped in front.
Fayyaz Butt added to Hong Kong’s woes with a sharp bouncer to dismiss Simandeep Singh, who could only manage to lob the ball up to short fine leg.
AT 18/5, Hong Kong’s hopes of World Cup qualification looked slim to none.
Scott McKechnie and Haroon Arshad continued to fight, however, seeing off Bilal Khan’s final over before milking Oman’s spinners for singles, twos, and the odd boundary.
Just as it looked like Hong Kong were re-establishing themselves as favorites, Arshad nicked Khawar Ali through to Suraj Kumar as he tried to whip the leggie towards mid wicket.
Despite a towering 6 by Ehsan Khan off the bowling of Amir Kaleem, he was soon dismissed chopping a Khawar Ali googly onto his stumps.
McKechnie continued to fight with a pair of boundaries, including one that was dropped by long on, who over-ran a ball that lobbed up off a leading edge and traveled surprisingly far.
When he fell in the 17th over, however, Hong Kong’s hopes vanished with him as they fell short by 12 runs on a night of missed opportunities, dramatic collapses, and extreme heartbreak.
Jatinder was rightly adjudged Player-of-the-match for one of the finest innings of the tournament as he led a jubilant Omani side to the big dance in Australia. They play Scotland on Thursday in a playoff for the 5th spot.