Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna
On Wednesday afternoon, in a tiny section of Dublin known as The Inch, Oman gathered for a training session at an even tinier cricket ground fenced into the premises of North County Cricket Club. During the net session on the centre wicket, Oman's heavy hitting batsmen stayed true to the mantra of "practice how you play" by launching ball after ball over wire extending up from the steel poles on the north side of the ground.
When one of the players tried to open a gate, he was stopped by a local official who warned them that behind the fence was private land on which the players were not allowed to trespass. The Oman team manager, Jameel Zaidi, broke out into a panic.
"These are brand new $125 Kookaburras," Zaidi blurted with exasperation. At least four went into the thick brush before the batsmen reined themselves in. According to Zaidi, 20 were lost during the team's first two training sessions in Cork, a city on the southwest coast of Ireland, where they began their tour of the British Isles in June. A month later, $2500 of lost cricket balls at the start of the tour for a cash-strapped amateur team practicing their sixes turned out to be a worthwhile expenditure.
"The chairman is here," a laughing Zaidi said after Oman's win over Namibia, which secured their maiden berth in the ICC World Twenty20 in India. "He said no issues. I'll get some more for you." Thanks to Zeeshan Siddiqui's match-winning knock, which included six fours and two sixes, that $2500 investment has been parlayed 100-fold into $250,000, the participation fee each Associate country gets for making the tournament.
In the first half-hour of play at Malahide on Thursday afternoon, Oman played more like 'Oh-Man'. Three drops and a botched run-out with both Namibia batsmen virtually at the same end showed how nervous the team was in their first television appearance of the tournament. In eight overs, Namibia were 70 for 1 and that quarter-million loot looked as far away as Cork.
"Our coach told us before the match, 'Don't think about the match being a live telecast,' but it was a little bit in the mind," Siddiqui told ESPNcricinfo, after celebrations had calmed down a bit. "After two, three or four overs, we got used to it but at that time they had a good start. But after that we realized we had to fight hard. After 10 overs, we were in the game. Before that we were nervous you can say but after that we got the rhythm in the bowling."
Towards the end of the first innings, their supporters had found their voice, none more so than Oman Cricket Board member Pankaj Khimji. He was the man who linked Derek Pringle to the team as a technical consultant. Standing on the south embankment at Malahide watching Munis Ansari's second spell, he bounced up and down like a pogo stick when Ansari struck with back-to-back wickets.
"Ek Aur! Ek Aur! (And one more!)", Khimji kept shouting from the hill. He was just as animated during the chase but he had circled around to the western boundary edge when Jatinder Singh and Siddiqui had commenced their 62-run stand. Each time a four was hit, the chant was yelped even louder and could be heard as far as the Oman tent on the opposite side. He could hardly contain himself when the match was over.
"What can I say?" Khimji said while pointing to Siddiqui as the players were heading toward the team bus. "I've got to buy him a drink, but he doesn't drink so I'll have to find another way to please him. Oman have made history. To make it to the five or six position is inexplicable. We are indebted to the boys who've played some superlative cricket today. It's them all the way, it's them all the way, it's them all the way."
Over the last month, the Oman players racked up more than $2500 in lost cricket ball debts. But as Khimji said, their board is now indebted to them after a historic day at Malahide.