A Gareth Delaney special lifted Ireland to their second win of the tournament, and knocked Oman out of top spot in Group B, as the ladder grew more congested with four teams sitting on 4 points each.
After two successful chases in their first two matches, Oman elected to field again when Zeeshan Maqsood called correctly in Abu Dhabi. For Ireland, Kevin O’Brien was straight into the action at the top of the order, moving into second position for calendar year runs in T20Is. He slapped a brisk 41 (28) to take his tally past Virat Kohli’s 2016 effort and move within striking distance of the all-time record set last year by Shikhar Dhawan. Looking in ominous form as he cracked speedster Bilal Khan for a delicious hook shot over the fence to bring up a record-equalling 35th six for the year, it was fitting that he did so against Oman – as it was in the Quadrangular series hosted in Muscat this February that he was promoted to open, and he has been in sparkling form ever since.
This was Gareth Delaney’s game though, and he signalled his intentions as soon as he walked out to replace Paul Stirling – he slammed a pair of boundaries in the first over he faced against Fayyaz Butt, and didn’t look back.
The introduction of Khawar Ali provided a brief respite for the Omanis, as he bowled O’Brien and returned the most economical figures of the night with 1/28 from his 4 overs, but even without boundaries the Irish were adept at keeping the scoreboard ticking over – after the 5th over there were just 13 dot balls. The runs on offer meant the Irish were able to build the platform from which Delaney eventually launched, as they plundered 64 runs from the final 5 overs, including a dizzying 20-run assault on Bilal Khan in the 19th. Delaney walked off to a richly-deserved clap from teammates and opponents alike as his career-best 89* (49) propelled the men from the Emerald Isle to 183/3.
Backing up from his tidy spell with the ball, opener Khawar Ali took the fight to Ireland as he thumped an even 50, laced with maximums off Dockrell, Rankin and David Delaney, but he found little support at the other end. Opening partner Jatinder Singh laboured to 10 (14) without once reaching the boundary, Aqib Ilyas flashed briefly as he fired 2 consecutive boundaries off Gareth Delaney before succumbing to a catch on the third delivery, skipper Zeeshan Maqsood came and went (caught by O’Brien off Rankin for 3), but at 75/3 after 9 overs Oman were still in the chase.
Gareth Delaney, though, put paid to any hope in the next over as he capped a memorable night by dismissing Ali (caught by Dockrell) with his legspin. Oman limped to their 20 overs, but it was ultimately an exercise in NRR mitigation as Ireland ran out 35-run victors.
For Ireland the win restates their case as one of the leading contenders in the tournament after the hiccough against UAE, while Oman have something to think about regarding their chases. Two good bowling efforts meant they could afford to take it easy in their first two games, but in a match where they needed to go hard from the start, they faltered and were unable to raise their scoring rate.