Muscat – Oman handed Papua New Guinea a 10-wicket rout as the Twenty20 World Cup, which was shifted from India due to Covid-19, got underway in the unlikely surroundings of a 3,000-seat stadium on the outskirts of Muscat on Sunday.
Oman skipper Zeeshan Maqsood returned figures of 4-20, which included three in one over, as tournament debutants PNG struggled to 129 for nine.
Openers Aqib Ilyas (50 from 43 balls) and Jatinder Singh (73 from 42) then clattered the PNG bowlers around the ground without being parted to steer Oman home with 6.2 overs to spare.
PNG captain Assad Vala, who made 56 off 43 balls, and Charles Amini, who smashed 37, had briefly given their team hope with an attacking third-wicket partnership of 81.
"They were batting very well when I got the wickets. And because we got the wickets, they couldn't put on a big total," said Maqsood.
Maqsood sent back Norman Vanua, Sese Bau and Kiplin Doriga in the space of five deliveries and later took one more as PNG, who had been 2-0 at one stage, collapsed from 102-3.
"It wasn't a good start with the bat, losing two wickets with no runs," said Vala.
Later Sunday, Bangladesh face Scotland in the second game of a double-header at the Al Amerat venue.
Ireland, Namibia, Netherlands and 2014 champions Sri Lanka join the fray on Monday.
The eight teams in the first round of qualifying are chasing four places in the Super 12 round-robin stage.
England, Australia, South Africa, defending champions West Indies, India, Pakistan, New Zealand and Afghanistan will be waiting with all matches in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
- 2022 places at stake -
The top four then progress to the semi-finals before the final in Dubai on November 14.
There is plenty at stake. A place in the next round guarantees a spot in the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia.
There is also a financial incentive. Teams exiting at the first hurdle take home a modest $40,000.
The eventual champions pocket a $1.6 million winner's cheque.
Bangladesh have just one victory at the tournament since 2007 but with a world ranking of six, will be heavily fancied to make the second round.
They go into the tournament with home series wins over Australia, New Zealand and Zimbabwe under their belts.
- England narrow favourites? -
The Scots have fallen at the first hurdle in their three previous T20 World Cup appearances, in 2007, 2009 and 2016.
They claimed their first and only win at the tournament five years ago -- an eight-wicket triumph in a rain-affected match against lowly Hong Kong.
The top nations will join the event -- played in stadiums 70-percent full -- on October 23, with Australia and South Africa meeting in the opener of the Super 12 stage and England up against West Indies.
England beat New Zealand to win the 50-over world title at Lord's in 2019.
Eoin Morgan's team will, however, be without Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, who played key roles in that one-day World Cup triumph.
England had to defend 19 runs in the last over of the 2016 T20 final in Kolkata but West Indies' Carlos Brathwaite famously hit Stokes for four straight sixes, giving the Caribbeans their second world T20 title.
- Pakistan's UAE edge? -
Many of that winning team will be back, led by Kieron Pollard and old war horses Dwayne Bravo, 38, and 42-year-old Chris Gayle.
Asian giants India will begin their campaign against arch-rivals and fellow former champions Pakistan on October 24 with Virat Kohli looking to go out with a bang before stepping down as captain of the T20 side.
Pakistan have won their last 10 Twenty20 internationals in the UAE and captain Babar Azam claimed Saturday that run will give his men the edge over India next weekend.
However, they have an abysmal record against India having lost all five times they have met at the T20 World Cup.