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Mehran Khan's spectacular journey in the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2024

Sports Tuesday 11/June/2024 09:06 AM
By: Ashok Purohit
Mehran Khan's spectacular journey in the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2024

Antigua & BarbudaOman’s thrilling journey at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 is all but over with their hopes of advancing extinguished after a hat-trick of losses in West Indies.

However, one player who has emerged as a standout bowler is Mehran Khan. Amidst the fierce competition and heart-pounding moments, Mehran's exceptional bowling performances have captivated audiences worldwide, showcasing not only his skill but also his unwavering determination to leave an indelible mark on the cricketing world.

Mehran’s name is among the list of top wicket-takers after the World Cup has witnessed 22 matches so far across four groups comprising 20 nations.

Mehran has stood out as a formidable force in Oman's bowling lineup. With a presence exuding quiet confidence and a smile that conceals his competitive fire, the 37-year-old medium pacer has made a significant impact on the field. His tally of six wickets places him among the top five bowlers in the tournament, a testament to his skill and consistency.

Afghanistan’s left-arm pacer Fazalhaq Farooqi, who claimed a five-wicket haul against Uganda, leads the table of the highest wicket-takers with nine wickets from two matches and is followed by South Africa’s pacer Anrich Nortje with eight.

At the third spot there are three bowlers including Mehran with six wickets each. The other two are West Indies’ left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein and Afghanistan’s spinner Rashid Khan.

Except for Mehran and Nortje who have featured in three matches each, the rest have played two games so far. India’s Jasprit Bumrah, who was the star of India’s win over Pakistan on Sunday, is next best with five wickets from two games.

Mehran’s bowling has also been rated as one of the most impactful performances so far. According to ESPNcricinfo, with Farooqi is on top with a score of 190.1 in the bowling impact category. At second spot is Mehran, who with a score of 146, is ahead of Bumrah with 128.7. The rating of most impactful bowlers is measured not only by the wickets taken and economy rate but also of the pressure under which these performances happened.

Mehran’s show has been one of the highlights of Oman in Group B at the ongoing World Cup, but the all-rounder admitted that these figures and bowling would have been sweeter had the team won.

“I would have been happier had we won the matches. We went close in the opener and to lose in a Super Over against Namibia was heart-breaking as we had them on the back foot,” said Mehran.

The experienced campaigner, who has been recalled in the national squad late last year after a gap of four years, justified the faith of head coach Duleep Mendis and produced one of the most memorable spells against Namibia.

Mehran returned with dream figures of 3/7 and led to defend the meagre total of 109 and force a tie and a Super Over. The spell against Namibia was his career-best in the 40 T20Is he has played since his debut Oman against Afghanistan in July 2015.

“We could have even won the match against Namibia but for the fumble off the last delivery behind the wickets that allowed [David] Wiese to steal a single off a bye,” he said.

Namibia needed a comfortable 18 runs off 18 balls with as many as seven wickets in hand before Mehran delivered a wicket maiden to start a streak of 18 deliveries that almost turned the tables on Namibia to result in a Super Over

After his 18th over, Mehran returned to defend five runs in the final over with an economy of 2 and claimed two wickets and conceded only four to force a tie. Namibia won the Super Over but Mehran’s spell earned plaudits all across the cricketing world.

His tidy line and length and ability to pull back his length came in handy against the mighty Australia. Mehran not only shone with the ball but made an enterprising 27 off 16 balls against the Aussies forging a crucial partnership with Ayaan Khan in the chase of 164/5.

Mehran had the Aussies in a spot as he struck twice off successive balls to get rid of their skipper Mitchell Marsh and Glenn Maxwell in the ninth over of the game. He was on a hat-trick and nearly had the star performer Marcus Stoinis caught at the boundary in the 15th over, a drop that will haunt Oman for long.

Stoinis’ hoick off a length ball to long off had Ayaan Khan take a superb catch back pedalling but he failed to keep his balance and tumbled over the ropes with the ball for a six.

Looking back, Mehran said: “It was the turning point of the match. We had them in the knots as they were 80/3 and had the catch been taken, it would have put pressure on them.”

He finished with 2/38 and was the bowler when skipper Ilyas came up with one of the best catches of the tournament to dismiss Maxwell.

In the match against Scotland, which Oman lost by seven wickets, Mehran picked his sixth wicket of the tournament when he had opener George Munsey caught at short backward point by Shakeel Ahmed for 41.

Over the three games, Mehran’s presence has been remarkable, an achievement given the fact that he was out of the national squad from 2019 to 2023.

Speaking on his experience in the World Cup, Mehran said: “It is a dream to play a team like Australia. I played against a Test-playing nation for the first time. They are former world T20 champions and to perform against that side is a proud moment for me.”

He added” “I picked three wickets against Namibia and carried the momentum to pick two more against Australia. I even had a chance of claiming a hat-trick. We could have kept Aussies to a much lesser total but for the dropped chances.”

Mehran said: “Our mistakes allowed Australia score 164 but we learn from such mistakes. It has been a learning experience for us. We may have lost three matches, but we have shown the world that we can fight at the biggest stage.”

The medium pacer said Oman will go into the final match against the defending champions England with nothing-to-lose approach. “We played the first game in Antigua and couldn’t utilise the conditions, but we have assessed it now. We hope to put up a good show against England.”

In the grand narrative of T20 cricket, Mehran’s journey is a testament to perseverance and skill. As he continues to leave his mark on the international stage, his performance at the 2024 World Cup will certainly go down as a memorable one for Oman.