Oman celebrate their historic win over Ireland on Wednesday night. Photo courtesy: PA Images & @RyanK_Bailey on Twitter
Oman celebrate their historic win over Ireland on Wednesday night. Photo courtesy: PA Images & @RyanK_Bailey on Twitter

How does one evaluate Oman’s win over Ireland in ICC World T20 2016? How did the world suddenly switch from Australia vs South Africa at Newlands to Oman vs Ireland at Dharamsala? Why did the newsroom applaud maniacally after every ball as Oman inched closer and closer to victory over Ireland, eventually breaking into a raucous cheer? And we were not alone, for #IREvOMA leapfrogged up trends on social media as the equation switched to Oman’s favour more and more. “Sport is all about context. Never thought I would be watching Oman vs Ireland over Australia vs South Africa,” tweeted Harsha Bhogle. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: Ireland vs Oman, ICC World T20 2016, Group A Round 1, Match 4 at Dharamsala

This is the same cricket fraternity that has been cheering for Ireland since they had knocked Pakistan out of ICC Cricket World Cup 2007. They were everyone’s favourite Associate Nation after they beat England in World Cup 2011. Everyone was annoyed when ICC decided to restrict World Cup 2019 to ten teams, for there was a probability that we may not get to see Ireland. Full Cricket Updates & Blog, Ireland vs Oman, ICC World T20 2016, Group A Round 1, IRE vs OMAN

And then, less than one year down the line, we are here, cheering Ireland’s defeat against Oman, for we love the underdogs. Oman, whose captain Sultan Ahmed had to be Googled. Ajay Lalcheta, their left-arm spinner who bowled the first ball of the match, ran in and bowled so slow that you could have a smoke with the non-striker before the ball actually arrived.

They made fun of Lalcheta on social media as he trundled on. Lalcheta responded by starting the day with 8 dot-balls. He bowled 14 dot-balls in all, returning figures of 4-1-24-0. ALSO READ: Oman shock Ireland with 2-wicket win in Group A Round 1, Match 4 in ICC world T20 2016

But Lalcheta will remain Oman’s unsung hero of the day, as will Munis Ansari, who took out Gary Wilson and the O’Brien brothers, Niall and Kevin. Zeeshan Maqsood, who took a spectacular catch to dismiss Paul Stirling and smashed a 33-ball 38, and Khawar Ali, who had William Porterfield stumped and outdid Maqsood with a 26-ball 37. Maqsood and Khawar added 69 in 51 balls for the first wicket. ALSO READ: Oman cricket: 5 players to watch out for

Ireland was about stars, seasoned in English domestic circuit; it was about Porterfield, their captain since goodness-knows-when; the O’Brien brothers, who had won the matches against Pakistan and England; they have seen, played, won, lost, and had more exposure than Oman.

But Oman was about a team. Oman was about three bowlers who bowled at less than 7 an over. Oman was about a pair of spectacular openers. Oman was about Jatinder Singh, who took a backseat when Aamer Ali exploded.

Aamer Ali looks like a Professor of Statistics who has several papers to his name. Aamer Ali is calm, bespectacled, and is as unassuming as the man you met this morning at the market. Aamer Ali made his international debut today, at 37. When Aamer Ali came out to bat, Oman needed 65 from 36 balls with 5 wickets in hand. With Boyd Rankin breathing fire and Kevin O’Brien striking crucial blows, it was Ireland’s match to lose.

But Aamer Ali pulled Max Sorensen over deep mid-wicket, into the stands. Aamer Ali leg-glanced Stirling for four. He had the power. He had the finesse. All he needed was some luck, and a partner. And Jatinder hung around.

So Aamer Ali went after Tim Murtagh, who was already coming apart after a flurry of wides and a no-ball: he made room outside off, and the moment Murtagh aimed outside off, he moved across in a flash and steered him past third-man for four; he went down on his knee on the next, and the ball soared over cover; the luck he wanted came next ball, when he dug out a yorker and it raced past third-man.

Three balls. Three fours. 23 from 18.

But Kevin O’Brien came back with a 5-run over. And in the next, Rankin took out Jatinder and Sultan, and went for 4.

14 from 6, the equation read.

And then came the beamer from Sorensen, and Aamer Ali guided it to the fine-leg fence. Sorensen hit off-stump, and they stole a bye; and Lalcheta somehow slashed it past third-man. And his teammates jumped up and down in excitement in the dugout.

3 from 3.

All through his Aamer Ali had been taking risks, perhaps because he was not used to winning, perhaps because Oman were not used to winning. He was clearly not used to the situation. He had attempted ugly hoicks and insane singles.

Three singles could have done it, but Aamer Ali’s nerves gave in. He moved back and had a swipe, and Niall accepted it gleefully. The dugout looked tense as Ansari walked out. Bilal Khan, the only man left to bat, had batted only twice in 10 matches, not scoring a run. Another wicket would probably tilt the match Ireland’s way.

But this was going to be Oman’s day. This was going to be the triumph of group of motley men that showed enormous willpower, who made the most of every bit of luck that came their way and every error the opposition made, who made the most of their limited abilities.

And so, Sorensen erred again, bowling a full-toss that the umpire called a no-ball. Had it been for height, Sorensen would have been out of action for the rest of the match. It would also have meant a free-hit.

But none of that mattered, for Niall O’Brien, ice-cool Niall O’Brien who had masterminded a chase against Pakistan in a World Cup match nine years back, let the ball go through his legs.

And somewhere, in a Gulf nation, a small group of supporters erupted in joy. They may not make it to the Super-10, but tonight was theirs, and whatever happened later in the tournament, no one could take the win away from them.

As for the supporters across the globe who had switched over from the glamorous match at Newlands to Oman versus Ireland, they celebrated the triumph of cricket with a smile, for what could have been a better advertisement for the sport in countries where it does not enjoy the same adulation as the Test-playing nations?

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry and CricLife. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)