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Mendis hails 'unique' Ansari after career-best haul

Oman coach Duleep Mendis praised Munis Ansari after the fast bowler took a career-best 5 for 27 in a 58-run victory over Jersey at WCL Division Five

Oman coach Duleep Mendis praised Munis Ansari after the fast bowler took a career-best 5 for 27 in a 58-run victory over Jersey at WCL Division Five on Monday, calling him a 'unique' player for his game-changing ability.
"We are fortunate to have a person like Munis Ansari," Mendis told ESPNcricinfo after Oman's win at St Saviour. "This is not the first time that he came and got the breakthrough for us. Even in the qualifiers for the World Cup, he got the breakthrough for us in so many matches and we have a lot of faith in him. He's a unique bowler.
"First, I think he's unique because of that square-arm action and then because of the speed that he has and the control that he has. More than anything he can control and he can bowl the yorker anytime that he wants."
After taking two wickets in his first five-over spell, Ansari returned for a second five-over spell and sparked a drastic collapse, with three more wickets, sending Jersey from 143 for 5 to 147 all out. Four of Ansari's five wickets were clean bowled, all of them via yorkers, with the slingy pacer on a hat-trick at one point in his second spell and Mendis said his ability to routinely target the base of the stumps in the latter stages of an innings made him a consistent threat.
"He's been practicing quite a lot," Mendis said. "He had a chat with Lasith Malinga when he met him in the World Cup and he's improving every day. Now it has come to a stage where whenever you tell him to bowl a few yorkers, he would be able to come and do it at will."
Prior to Monday, Ansari had taken four wickets in an innings on three separate occasions for Oman since making his debut at 2013 ICC WCL Division Three in Bermuda. In that tournament, he claimed 4 for 72 in a win against Italy and the following year took 4 for 43 in a loss to UAE. He also ripped through Netherlands in a brilliant death spell at the World T20 Qualifier in Scotland with 4 for 15 to send Netherlands from 134 for 5 to 135 all out, setting up a six-wicket win.
Mendis also praised Ansari for shouldering extra responsibility with Oman unable to pick what Mendis felt was their best bowling attack due to rules restrictions at Division Five. According to the tournament rules, players who are residents for more than four years but not yet seven years are eligible to compete but only two such players can be in any starting XI.
That particular criteria did not apply at the World T20 in India, which allowed them to play left-arm quick Bilal Khan in every game. However, Bilal has had to stay on the bench for the last two games with Oman opting to play an extra batsman in Noorul Riaz instead after Bilal claimed 0 for 13 in three overs during the first encounter against Jersey at Division Five on Saturday.
"With Ansari there are two other medium pacers. One is Raju [Ranpura] and he is bowling well. Unfortunately we can't have the other left-arm seamer bowling in the match because of the qualifying rule that we have about the four-year and seven-year [players]. It is unfortunate because he is a very good fast bowler, about 135-140 [kph]. But unfortunately we cannot play him unless we take another four-year player out of the team."
Mendis said that although the team is 2-0, he still felt there is plenty of room for improvement heading into the team's three remaining group stage games against Vanuatu, Tanzania and Guernsey. Outside of Zeeshan Maqsood's 69 made at the top of the order against Jersey, the top order has not contributed much in the tournament and Mendis said they need to start pulling their weight.
"The batting has to come right," Mendis said. "The middle and lower middle-order is getting runs but not the top order. I would like to see the top order getting runs. Unfortunately that is not happening. The lower middle-order is the one saving the side.
"I would like to get the spinners bowling a much tighter line backed up with better fielding. I think the fielding was well below the mark today but it should pick up because they are a better fielding side than what they performed today."

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna