Ireland 140-1 (17.1 overs) (Andrew Balbirnie 75*, Paul Stirling 51) beat Oman 137 all out (19.2 overs) (Shoaib Khan 57) (Simi Singh 3-9, Mark Adair 3-25) by nine wickets.
On the weekend he finds out if he will be picked up in the Indian Premier League auction, Paul Stirling provided a timely reminder of his quality to potential bidders with a half-century in Ireland’s comfortable nine wicket win over Oman.
Playing in a quadrangular series as a warm-up for next week’s T20 World Cup qualifiers, it was the opening partnership of Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie that perfectly measured a chase of 138, providing this Irish outfit a major confidence boost in a format which has been a struggle of late.
Stirling is in form coming off the back of a magnificent run in the Pakistan Super League, so welcome as his runs always are, it was arguably more pleasing from an Irish point of view to see captain Balbirnie top score with an unbeaten 75 (49). Earlier in the day, a stellar bowling display headlined by Simi Singh's career best figures of 3-9 restricted Oman to a below par first innings total of 137.
After winning the toss and electing to bowl first, Ireland had the perfect start as Mark Adair got a full delivery to jag onto Kashyap Prajapati’s off stump with just the third ball of the match. Jatinder Singh slogged Craig Young out to Shane Getkate in the deep a few overs later to ensure Oman’s openers were both removed cheaply, though a fightback did come from number three Shoaib Khan.
His half-century included nine boundaries and at one point threatened to take the game away from Ireland, but after bringing his fifty up off 30 balls, his next eight deliveries yielded just seven runs. Khan also found himself spending plenty of time at the other end as Ayaan Khan, Zeeshan Maqsood and Khawar Ali all departed cheaply.
After the frustrating period, Khan could not help himself when Young returned and skied the first ball of his new spell down to Singh at long off.
At that point Singh was in the middle of his impressive spell at the other end, bowling largely in tandem with Curtis Campher as Ireland’s middle overs pairing. Much has been made of Singh’s ability to spin the ball both ways, but this felt like his best outing yet with his occasional leg-spin, restricting Oman when they had two right-handers at the crease and even dismissing Ali and Khurram Nawaz with the delivery.
The latter was caught in the deep by George Dockrell, one of a number of good catches Ireland clung onto in an excellent fielding display. The pick of them came from Balbirnie diving to his left to snare Bilal Khan at deep mid wicket to end the innings.
Requiring a hair under seven an over in the chase, Ireland scored at eight an over during the powerplay as Balbirnie took charge, finding plenty of gaps on the off side while even throwing in a massive drive over mid on for the first maximum of the innings.
That particular shot came off a hard length from Khan, perhaps showing just how good this pitch was, adding extra credit to the Irish bowling display.
Oman captain Maqsood took a gamble by bowling one over of his left-arm spin in the powerplay, but Balbirnie did not let him settle with boundaries through extra cover and mid wicket.
Not that Ireland were not without luck. Ali dropped a dolly in the covers off Balbirnie while Stirling just about dug out a pinpoint yorker to the third man fence.
After reaching 47-0 after the first six overs, Stirling came to the fore, though he was by no means quiet up to that point. A pair of maximums over long on signalled his intent and he was the first to reach 50 in the 13th over, coming as it did off 40 balls.
Balbirnie followed suit an over later, his milestone coming off 38 deliveries but the partnership was broken when a Stirling dance down the wicket came up empty and Naseem Khushi took an easy stumping.
Stirling was visibly frustrated with his shot selection, but given that Gareth Delany has not played a T20I since last year’s World Cup it might not have been the worst outcome with next week’s qualifiers in mind to give him some time in the middle.
He finished unbeaten with a run-a-ball 12 alongside Balbirnie, whose pull over mid wicket for the third maximum of his innings - a welcome display given Ireland’s power hitting problems - secured the win with just under three overs to spare.
Ireland are in action once again on Sunday against the UAE who they will also face in their qualifier group next week.