Day 2: BHUTAN'S BUBBLE BURSTS

Oman's Suneet Fernandes Oman's Abu Saud Haroon

A dazzling performance by Oman's spinners took their team to victory over Bhutan by 50 runs at the Gymkhana ground in Chiang Mai.

Dewy conditions made it a good toss to win and Bhutan, boosted by their win against Maldives the day before, took the field with more confidence than any Bhutanese team had probably ever done.

A breakthrough in the very first over justified their decision as Luveen Alva nicked the ball straight into the hands of the wicket-keeper, Kencho Norbu. Playing and missing and finding that even when they middled the ball firmly, the ball slowed down significantly in the outfield because of the dew, the batsmen really found conditions difficult. Being exposed to these alien conditions - turf, swing, seam, humidity - really challenged the Omani batsmen and for all their struggles, their coach Rajinder Singh was pleased that his team had this opportunity to test themselves.

Oman were reeling at 6-2 after four overs and Thinley Jamisho (3-20) gave Bhutan team more reason to cheer when Norbu took a sensational, full-length diving catch behind the stumps to dismiss Kumail Haider. Bhutan's pacemen were all over the Omanis.

Oman eventually managed to find the boundary in the ninth over and with the ball softening, the bowlers tiring and conditions easing Suneet Fernandes (21) and Gaurav Honnavar (23) put on a 36-run partnership in seven overs. It ended when Fernandes fell to yet another brilliant catch, this time in the slips by Anand Chettri.

Oman lost another wicket soon after but then, surprisingly, Bhutan lost concentration and dropped two sitters as well as committing several fielding errors that resulted in boundaries. Doshambe and Honnavar rebuilt the Omani innings until Anand Chettri, fresh off his three-wicket haul against Maldives, picked Honnavar with his second ball of the day. Norbu's third catch for the day now had Oman at 86-7.

Oman were eventually all out for 106 after 22.1 overs. Something to defend at least, but Bhutan going into the innings break would have felt that that the game and first place in the group was theirs for the taking.

Oman have pacemen of their own and they too made the batsmen suffer, having the Bhutanese ducking and diving. A brilliant delivery by Taha Shah, fast, jagging and lifting, was edged on the rise by Sanjeevan Gurung for wicket-keeper Pratik Shettigar to take the simplest of catches.

Bhutan's Kencho Norbu sniffs the leather

It was here that Oman's greater game sense and matchplay in comparison to Bhutan started paying off. Bhutan seemed in no rush and made only 12 runs in the following seven overs and they let Oman dictate terms to them.

Oman made another breakthrough just before lunch and at 33-2, the game was suddenly wide open.

On resuming after the break, Bhutan's batsmen never looked settled and fell for the addition of just 23 more runs. Spinners Suneet Fernandes (5-17) and Abu Saud Haroon (3-1) too were on hat-tricks at various times as they absolutely dismembered the Bhutanese batting. Bhutan might have a strategy for pace - block, duck and weave - but against crafty, flighted fizz they were struggling for answers. Bhutan were all out for 56 after 22.2 overs handing Oman a victory by 50 runs.

For his outstanding bowling, the Man of the Match award was awarded to Suneet Fernandes.

Oman's Suneet Fernandes with Match Referee Richard Bartholemew

Bhutan v Oman, Chiang Mai Gymkhana
OMAN WON BY 50 RUNS
Bhutan won the toss and elected to field
Oman: 106 after 22.1 overs (T. Jamisho 3-20, D. Subba 3-12)
Bhutan: 56 after 22.2 overs (S. Fernandes 5-17, A. Haroon 3-1)

Man of the Match: Suneet Fernandes (Oman)

Filed December 15 2006