Ireland's World T20 campaign got off to the worst possible start when they were beaten by Oman in Dharamsala on Wednesday evening leaving William Porterfield's side with a huge task in hand if they are to make it through to the Super Ten phase.
It was a game that ebbed and flowed throughout but with Oman needing 14 to win off the last over it is one that Ireland will feel they should have been able to close out.
John Bracewell's charges had opted to bat first on winning the toss and the Omanis clearly had a plan to bowl with pace off- opening with left arm spinner Ajay Lalcheta who sent down a first over maiden to the Ireland skipper.
Paul Stirling was soon finding the boundary however as the openers began to work their way into the contest, eventually putting on a stand of 48 before the Middlesex man fell to a stunning catch from Zeeshan Maqsood at cover to be out for 29 (6 fours).
Gary Wilson joined his captain in the middle and this pair added another 36 before Porterfield was dragged down the track by Khawar Ali and stumped by his opposite number, Sultan Ahmed, having also made 29.
Wilson (38) and Niall O'Brien (16) were being pegged back by the slow pace but kept the scoreboard ticking over with some excellent running as Ireland went past the 100-mark in the 14th over. Before either could push on however, Munis Ansari gave the fielding side a real lift by removing both batsmen in the same over as Ireland slumped to 118-4.
Ansari (3-37) who models his "slingy" action on Sri Lanka lengend Malinga, albeit without the pace, and he took his 3rd wicket of the game when he completely bamboozled Kevin O'Brien (14) as Ireland struggled to build late momentum. Andy McBrine made an unbeaten 10 from the last 3 balls and coupled with 11 not out from Andrew Poynter, the innings closed on 154 for 5.
Oman's reply began in some style with Maqsood and Khawar Ali taking on all comers and at the end of the power-play they had reached 44-0. In fact it wasn't until the 9th over that Ireland got the breakthrough as Kevin O'Brien forced first, Khawar (34) and then Maqsood (38) both to play on, bringing them back into the contest.
Two quick wickets for McBrine (2-15) and one for Sorensen then had Bracewell's boys completely in the driving seat- Oman 90 for 5 with just 6 overs left before a 47-run partnership turned things again. Jatinder Singh (24) was joined by the bespectacled Amir Ali and these two wrestled the initiative away once more, as a winner was proving hard to call.
Amir hit 5 fours and a six in his 17-ball 32 to take Oman to the verge of victory but it was far from over even then. A wonderful piece of fielding by Wilson on the boundary saw him dive full length over the rope and scoop the ball back to save 5 runs that looked priceless heading into the final overs. Skipper Sultan was then run out in an excellent 19th over from Boyd Rankin that cost just 4 runs and looked to have finally handed the points to Ireland.
That took it down to the last with Max Sorensen given the responsibility of taking his side home from there with those 14 in the bank but after starting with a no-ball boundary and subsequent free-hit, Porterfield's men lost their advantage.
To be fair, Sorensen rallied to get Ireland back into it one last time, man-of-the-match Amir caught behind with Oman still 3 short and with only 3 deliveries left. Unfortunately it wasn't to be however, the Hills' man sending down another beamer from the next ball that raced to the boundary for four.
The Omani camp celebrated wildly and rightly so. They continue to build an impressive reputation, leaving Irish skipper Porterfield with little to do but lick his wounds.
"We managed to drag it back pretty well after their good start but we let ourselves down in the last three or four overs" said the opener.
"We've got to win our last two Group games now to give ourselves a chance of progressing and that's what we'll aim to do. We'll re-group now and focus on trying to win those two matches and hope that it's enough".
- The Toss
- The pitch
- Scott Irvine sets up
- William Porterfield
- Stumping attempt against William Porterfield
- Bilal bowling to Paul Stirling
- Ireland Captain William Porterfield
- Paul Stirling scored 29
- William Porterfield scores a boundary
- Driven to cover by Paul Stirling
- Oman celebrate the wicket of Paul Stirling
- Umpires confer
- Gary Wilson top scored with 38
- William Porterfield is stumped by Sultan Ahmed
- Wicket for Khawar Ali
- Niall O'Brien batting
- Boundary for Gary Wilson
- Gary Wilson turns for the second
- Munis Ansari
- Niall O'Brien departs
- Improvisation by Gary Wilson
- Gary Wilson is bowled by Munis Ansari
- End of Gary Wilson
- Munis Ansari celebrates the wicket of Gary Wilson
- Ansari celebrates the wicket of Gary Wilson
- Andrew Poynter
- Kevin O'Brien gets back for the second
- The end of Kevin O'Brien
- Ansari sends the stumps of Kevin O'Brien tumbling
- Boundary for Andy McBrine
- Andy McBrine
- Craig Young bowling
- Boundary for Zeeshan Maqsood
- Just out of the reach of Boyd Rankin
- Khawar Ali batting
- Driven past Tim Murtagh
- Gary Wilson and Tim Murtagh
- Andy McBrine took two wickets
- Khawar Ali is bowled by Kevin O'Brien
- Niall and Kevin O'Brien celebrate the wicket of Ali
- Kevin O'Brien takes evasive action as Ali swipes the bat in frustration
- Ali departs
- Kevin O'Brien celebrates another wicket
- The end of Maqsood
- Ireland celebrate the wicket
- William Porterfield takes the catch
- Andy McBrine congratulated
- Anwar Ali hits a six
- Just out of the reach of Andy McBrine
- Anwar Ali
- Jatinder Singh
- Boyd Rankin jumps for joy
- Boyd Rankin congratulated by William Porterfield
- Boyd Rankin celebrates
- No-Ball by Max Sorensen
- Max Sorensen hits the stumps of Ali but it was a Free-Hit
- Max Sorensen celebrates the wicket of Ali
- Oman celebrate the win
- Oman win by two wickets
- Joy for Oman
- Celebrations continue for Oman