Oman showed all their pedigree in beating Bhutan by eight wickets at the Prem Oval, in the opening match of the ACC Trophy Challenge. Pedigree, power and professionalism were shown by Oman, who are on average ten and a half years older than Bhutan's players. You expect them to bowl and bat well, what was most impressive about Oman's performance was their fielding, they chased hard, held all their catches and converted all but two run-out chances.

Awal Khan gets his first wicket of the tournament,
Bhutan's Kumar Subba

It was a good toss to win, the wicket juice and life and the ball was seaming and swinging. Farhan Khan, fitter than he's ever been for Oman, came steaming in from the Garden End and had Bhutan's batsmen struggling.

At other end Haider Ali, not quite as quick but still distinctly sharp had the ball climbing off a length just as often as Farhan. Batting in the first half hour was not easy. Three slips and a gully were in place from the start, all expecting to be called into action. Farhan fired in good yorker once in a while and if the Omani bowlers were guilty of anything it was bowling just a little too short to the Bhutanese batsmen.

Opener Dorji's first and only four flew off the splice over slip – next ball, pitched up, he was well caught low down at cover. Tshering Dorji's on-drive was an early candidate for shot of the day with but he was caught two balls into Awal Khan's second over at square-leg, Khalid Rasheed taking another good catch, this one a swirler over his head as he moved backwards.

Farhan Khan had kept going all this time, still fast, still accurate, still dangerous. He had Bhutan's star Jigme Singye, caught at second slip for 0 off an angled bat. A big blow to Bhutan.  Four slips and a gully in place now for Farhan and deservedly so.

Farhan Khan beats the bat

Oman's keeper Sultan Ahmed stood up initially to Awal Khan's medium pace, but Awal's pace and lift had him retreating after a couple of deliveries. Oman's bowlers really impressed and Awal Khan, once he realized that keeping the ball up to the bat would do more damage, really locked on to a good line and length.

Farhan finished his spell after seven overs with figures of 7-2-19-3. A 33-run partnership between Thinley Jamthso and little left-hander Sonam Tobgay repaired Bhutan's fortunes somewhat until Tobgay was yorked by Awal Khan.

Thinley, a Prem schoolboy, with new shoes and new bat bought in Kolkata for this tournament, and following an 18-hour bus-ride across India from the Bhutan border, batted very well  - a cover drive off Farhan having his Prem school coach David Buck applauding in appreciation.

A fighting hand from Bhutan's Thinley Jamthso

Slow left-armer Hemal Mehta at the Garden End found considerable bounce and turn, finishing with 3-21, taking a good catch running backwards off his own bowling to dismiss last man Thinley for 38.

111 gave Bhutan something to work with in the field but against Oman's boom-boom batsmen it wasn't enough. Prem's wicket's hard and bouncy. "Just how Oman we like them," says Oman's captain Hemal and Maqsood Hussain's bat riflecracked boundaries in his 6-ball 18. "They average 15 runs an over in their domestic league," says ACC Development Officer for Oman Roger Binny.

Oman's Adnan Ilyas
Man of the Match Hemal Mehta

Vaibhav Wategaonkar showed finesse as well as force, one late cut was sublime in execution, Last ball before lunch was smote over mid-wicket for 6 by Adnan Ilyas off the suffering Jigme. Oman resumed after lunch on 84 for 1 after nine overs and needed only 25 more balls to win.

"Bhutan is definitely a side for the future," said Oman's amiable captain Hemal afterwards, "they're very young and are quite good already." Oman though are the ones in pole position in this tournament. They look a well-drilled side and have every chance of doing well not only at this level but in ICC World Cricket League Division 1 where a top four finish will get them to World Cup 2011.

ACC Trophy Challenge 2009
Bhutan v Oman at Prem Oval
Bhutan 111 off 33.4 overs (T.Jamtsho 38; F.Khan 3-19, A.Khan 3-22, H.Mehta 3-21)
Oman: 112 for 2 off 13.1 overs (A.Ilyas 50)
Man of the Match: Hemal Mehta (Oman)


ACC Trophy Challenge

Pictures by Robert Thaprom

Filed January 12, 2009