Cricket 19: Howzat in Muscat!

In our country’s (Switzerland’s) first ever Test match, we lost the toss and were inserted to bat. By lunch, Oman had knocked us over for 142!

We scored at a good rate but our batsmen just couldn’t resist nibbling outside off stump. Dirk Shaffer (25), Kingston Hall (24) and Max Schutt (20) contributed the bulk of the total. We never really had any partnership while the Oman wicketkeeper claimed seven catches.

We fought back to bundle the home side out for just 124. Left-arm fast bowler Kristoff Klein (3-34) dismissed both openers LBW with full inswinging deliveries. Left-arm spinner Shaffer (4-10) ripped through the middle order in stunning fashion. Frustratingly, a last wicket stand lifted Oman from 91-9 to 124, still, we’d gained a lead of 18.

In our second innings, we lost opener Christophe Vance (11) but Stephane Stollmeyer and captain Louis Vincent rapidly raised us to 72-1, only for Stollmeyer (36) to fall to the final delivery of the first day. Both he and Vance suffered the ignominy of being dismissed twice on their nation’s first ever day of Test cricket. Vincent went onto make 51 but we collapsed from 72-1 to 148-8. Klein (24*) and fellow opening bowler Ravi Ali (22) produced a vital partnership of 40 to help us reach 193. Incredibly, the Omani gloveman, having held seven catches in the first innings, claimed a world record all ten in the second! Oman needed to chase down 212 for victory.

At 58-1 and 95-2 they looked well set but run outs and a Ravi Ali (3-47) wicket just before tea, made us favourites. Kirkland (68) held the innings together but was run out by Klein (1-47) when attempting a suicidal single to get on strike. At 161-9 the game seemed won but after our inability to finish off Ireland in the third ODI, our players knew not to count chickens! It was left to Max Schutt (1-26) to trap the last man LBW and seal a superb 31-run two-day win on Switzerland’s Test debut!

Come the second match, we again lost the toss. Oman opted to bat (Despite the rain!) this time and moved to 135-3 but we persevered to dismiss the hosts for only 212. Klein (2-17) as well as debutantes Mo Castro (2-35) and Loic Iversen (2-61) did the bulk of the damage.

Opener Stephane Stollmeyer and captain Louis Vincent combined for 113 to take us to 135-1 in reply. Stollmeyer (63) was caught at slip for a well constructed half-century but Vincent (122) went on. Ably supported by Phillipe Fernandes (30), the skipper brought up his nation’s first ever Test century. Castro (32*) and Iversen (20) helped us reach 313 all out, a lead of 101. Their wicketkeeper, having scored 61 with the bat, fired again behind the stumps, holding another seven catches.

Oman then reached 107-2 and 237-5 in their second innings. Klein (2-42) and Fernandes (2-56) accounted for the top order. The part-time spin of Vincent (11-7-5-3!) and Dinesh de Silva (2-23) was too much for their middle order to handle though. Oman collapsed to 253 all out. We required 153 to achieve a victory in our first ever Test series.

In the chase, there were contributions throughout though nobody could quite go on. Skipper Vincent (29) was distraught to fall with the finish line insight. Though six wickets fell, it never felt like we were going to throw it away. Stollmeyer top scored with 37 having put on 51 with Vance (21) for the first wicket. de Silva (25) made a vital contribution, playing some lovely shots after a challenging initiation. It was left to wicketkeeper Nico Keller (9*), who kept superbly throughout the match, and Iversen (2*) to get us over the line. The people of Switzerland rejoiced in the streets!

The third and final Test, despite being a dead rubber, would be treated with the same intensity as the first two and go down as one of the greatest matches in living memory!

Batting first, we posted 222. Marko Markovic top scored with 63 whilst Loic Iversen (49) was cruelly denied a maiden Test fifty when Dirk Shaffer (33) sold his teammate short between the wickets!

We reduced Oman to 176-7 only to toil as they amassed 350! Debutante leg-spinner Simon Chung (4-47) and pacer Harry Singh (3-73), another Test virgin, did the bulk of the damage.

We slipped to 66-4 before Kingston Hall (120) and Max Shutt (74) combined for an epic stand of 190. That lifted us to 256-4 only for us to capitulate to 260 all out. Chung, Singh and stand-in skipper Kasper Beck were all dismissed for ducks!

All that equated to Oman requiring 133 to avoid a series whitewash. Harry Singh (4-51) led the way as we ripped through the home side to leave them in tatters at 61-9. But… the last pair batted on and on, even if it took their number eleven 46 deliveries to get off the mark, we just couldn’t shift them. Stand-in skipper Beck, wicketless in Test cricket to date, couldn’t find the answer. An inside edge from number nine Madani (72*) off Singh, raced to the boundary to seal an incredible one-wicket win for Oman. The last wicket pair had compiled an undefeated 72 and regained some love from their own fans… and board. We’d won the series but failing to finish off Oman in the third Test tainted things somewhat.

Disclaimer: Apologies for the poor quality images!

Published by Planet Paul

I'm just an ordinary guy sharing my thoughts on various sports, entertainment and one or two other things!

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