Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna
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Coach Duleep Mendis has said he is satisfied that Oman were able to secure promotion with a top-two finish at WCL Division Five in Jersey, but has admitted that his side's batting struggles are a major concern. Speaking prior to the team's departure from Jersey, back to Oman, Mendis told ESPNcricinfo that he expects several new players to come into the Oman squad for WCL Division Four to be held in the USA later this year.
"The bowlers did extremely well right through the tour from the first game onwards, the seam bowlers as well as spin," Mendis said. "The batsmen didn't click; other than one or two batsmen, others never got off. That is one of our main concerns when we get back."
Opening batsman Zeeshan Maqsood finished as the tournament's leading scorer with 350 runs at an average of 70. His opening partner Khawar Ali, however, managed only 68 runs in seven innings, including three scores of 2 against tournament champions Jersey. The rest of the batting order fared little better, with spin-bowling allrounder Aamir Kaleem the only Oman player besides Maqsood to cross 100 runs in the tournament, making 139 at 34.75.
"We need to buckle down and get these things organised," Mendis said. "Batting has to be organised because number two, three, four never gave us any runs. That is a main concern right now.
"We tried with the present lot for a long period now and some of them haven't really come off, so we need to go back and see what we have, and I'm sure there will be some new faces in the batting lineup in LA. They are quite used to playing 50 overs. It is not that they have not experienced it in the past. It is nothing new to them. But I think the present lot have been in the circuit for a long period and it is always good to have fresh blood coming in and even the fielding standard will improve."
Mendis said Oman's lineup faces obstacles from the ICC's player-eligibility guidelines regarding non-citizens at Associate tournaments. In any tournament below the WCL Championship, only two players who have lived in a given country for four years but not yet seven years are eligible to play in any starting XI.
Oman carried three such players - wicketkeeper Swapnil Khadye, batsman Noorul Riaz and left-arm pacer Bilal Khan - in their squad to Jersey, with Bilal the odd man out in all but two games. Mendis admitted his preference was to have Bilal in his first-choice XI, but problems with the batting necessitated a different approach. Going forward, Mendis said Oman may have to reconsider the selection of four-year players if it poses issues with team balance.
"The wicketkeeper Swapnil came off well," Mendis said. "He started keeping well, [and] his contribution with the bat was good, so I think he has almost established himself. Noorul is a big question mark. He's a new player who [debuted] for this tour. He did all right. At the same time, there are one or two other seamers as well who could come into the side. They might not be as good as Bilal, but they are somewhere there. But as I said, we will have to go back and see how we can get the best combination going."
The domestic 50-over season in Oman wrapped up just prior to the team's departure for Jersey and will not begin again until September. Mendis said he is targeting a preparation tour to the UAE around then as part of the team's build-up to Division Four in Los Angeles. Mendis says he toured there with a Sri Lanka XI as a player and feels the dry conditions in the San Fernando Valley at Woodley Park will suit his side more than those they encountered in Jersey.
"The main concern for us when we came was to get in the next Division, Division Four," Mendis said. "Because of relegation [in 2014], we had to come down to Division Five, but between now and then, the boys gained a lot of experience playing in the world circuit - the WT20 and Asia Cup - and we were confident when we came here that we would get into Division Four.
"We are very keen that we do well in WCL Four and go up to Three. That will be our main goal now. Before the WT20, our goal was to make a big impact on the tournament and we did that. When we came here, we wanted to get qualified for [Division] Four and we did that. Now the next target is to get to Three."