Oman vs England: Clash of pride and pressure

Sports Wednesday 12/June/2024 09:08 AM
By: Ashok Purohit
Oman vs England: Clash of pride and pressure

Antigua and Barbuda: It is a showdown of pride and pressure as Oman brace themselves to face defending champions England in their final Group B encounter of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua on Thursday.

The match begins at 3 pm local time (11 pm Oman time).

Having displayed resilience in their previous matches, despite being winless in the tournament so far, Oman seek to bid farewell with a memorable performance against England.

Over the past two weeks, Oman have shown remarkable character, especially in their close encounters against Namibia and Australia in Barbados before crashing to big defeat at the hands of Scotland in Antigua.

England go up against Oman knowing that only a win will do if they wish to have any chance of progressing from Group B. Jos Buttler's side realistically need to produce one of their most dominant performances in the history of this competition to catch-up with Scotland's superior net-run-rate (NRR).

Australia are top of the group with six points from three matches after their thumping win over Namibia on Tuesday night in Antigua. The nine-wicket win powered the Aussies into the knockout phase, the second team in the tournament, to confirm their berth in Super Eight stage after South Africa had earlier booked their spot from Group D with three wins and a washout between Nepal and Sri Lanka on Tuesday.

Scotland are close behind with five points and Namibia are third with two points from three and England have just one point from their two matches.

At the start of the tournament, holders England and Australia were expected to stroll through the group that had three Associate nations in Oman, Scotland and Namibia. However, England face the genuine prospect of an early exit, after their opener against Scotland was washed out and handing the teams a point each.

England suffered a big defeat at the hands of Australia and now face the prospect of being knocked out if they are unable to garner huge net run-rate (NRR) in their must-win games against Oman and then Namibia.

Scotland have already positioned themselves in a good position with a healthy NRR of +2.164 with one match remaining, a fixture against Australia on June 15. The Aussies have a huge NRR of +3.580 after their rout of Namibia, who have -2.098 and England have -1.800. Oman, who are out of reckoning, have -1.613.

Can Oman finish on a high note?

For Oman, they would gain strength from their display in the first two games, having narrowly lost to Namibia in the Super Over and then strangling Australia batters for the first 14 overs, before losing the plot against their vastly superior and experienced rivals.

Oman meet England for the first time in a T20I clash, but they have their decent performance against another Test-playing and former world champions Australia at Kensington Oval last weel to take a cue from.

Duleep Mendis-coached side will hope to exploit the advantage of assessing the playing conditions earlier than England at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium after their seven-wicket defeat to Scotland on June 9.

"The team failed to capitalise on the favourable batting conditions and the batters did not use the strong winds to their benefit," lamented Oman skipper Aqib Ilyas, highlighting the missed opportunities against Scotland.

Oman would hope to make amends to their mistakes against the Scots with their resilience spirit in focus against a rival that faces a do-or-die game.

Oman batter Pratik Athavale, who top-scored against the Scotland with 54, the highest score by an Omani in the tournament so far, said: "We will take positives from the defeat against Scotland here [in Antigua] and also have learnt our lessons during our losses against Namibia [Super Over] and Australia respectively."

Opener Athavale emphasised the need of early breakthroughs in powerplay and building partnerships while batting. He said: “We were unable to make the best use of the conditions against Scotland. We will go into Thursday’s match with positive intent and do our best.”

Overall, Oman can be satisfied with the account that they have given in this tournament and will go into England game with “nothing to lose” attitude and would be eager to demonstrate their skills and bow out with their heads high.

Athavale said: “We will be having our second outing in Antigua and second against such a big team in the tournament [England]. I think we are better prepared to take on England.”

England, backed by their superior skills and experience, are clear favourites on Thursday, but Oman have the ability to cause headache for them, having shown sparks of brilliance and competitiveness in the tournament.

England skipper is clear on what team needs

England skipper Jos Buttler is clear about what he expects in the game against Oman.

"I think it's quite clear what we need to do and how we need to play. First and foremost, we need to win the game against Oman to have any chance going forward into the next one. So, we have to earn the right to try and win the game. And if we can get ourselves in a position to affect our net run-rate, obviously that's what we need to do."

Toss could play a role in the match and with the winds expected to be another factor, teams that adapt to conditions better end up victors.

For England to nudge their NRR up ahead of Scotland's over their next two games – to ensure they would progress even in the event of the narrowest of Australia wins on Sunday (via a Super Over) - Oman and Namibia need to be defeated by a combined margin of 117 runs or more.

Buttler told reporters in Antigua: "Obviously that's the situation we find ourselves in, so we have to be aware of that, but not be consumed by that. If we try and do that bit first and forget about trying to win the game and lose, then you've got no chance anyway. So, I'd rather have some kind of chance going into the last game and know exactly what we need to."

He added: "We're a proud team, we want to perform really well for all the fans. But to be honest, all the focus is on us and how well we can play. If we play as well as we can, we'll make our fans happy."

Oman may opt for couple of changes in the match while England are also expected to ring in few changes and shuffle the batting order.

Oman squad: Aqib Ilyas (c), Zeeshan Maqsood, Kashyap Prajapati, Pratik Athavale, Ayaan Khan, Shoaib Khan, Mohammad Nadeem, Naseem Khushi, Mehran Khan, Bilal Khan, Rafiullah, Kaleemullah, Fayyaz Butt, Shakeel Ahmad, Khalid Kail.

England squad: Jos Buttler (c), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonathan Bairstow, Harry Brook, Sam Curran, Ben Duckett, Tom Hartley, Will Jacks, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Adil Rashid, Phil Salt, Reece Topley, Mark Wood.