The country’s leading cricketers will set aside their day jobs in a last surge to try to qualify for the 2015 World Cup this week, starting against Namibia in Sharjah on Thursday.
What needs to happen? The national team have to beat Namibia on Thursday and on Sunday, and improve their overall run-rate in the process, to leapfrog Holland into the second automatic qualifying place. If that does happen, they are then reliant on Kenya beating Afghanistan in at least one of their two matches in Sharjah next week.
How likely is it? The UAE will be optimistic of keeping their part of the equation. They thrashed an under-strength Namibia side inside two days in what was supposed to be a four-day match last week. Hope rules expectation for the other part of the puzzle, though. Afghanistan are widely considered to be superior to Kenya, but the African side could spring a surprise.
Is history a guide? Hopefully not. The national team have an unhappy knack of finishing within touching distance of the Big Show – only to miss out. In 2005, they were sixth when five qualified in Ireland. In 2009 they lost to Scotland when a qualifying place was within their grasp in Benoni. The same even happened in the Twenty20 version in 2010, when they finished fourth when the top three qualified.
Special relationship The UAE are in the bizarre position of doing everything within their power to accommodate their closest rivals for qualification. Afghanistan call Sharjah their home ground. Sharjah’s bosses even organise their practise hours for them. And their coach, Kabir Khan, started the qualifying competition in charge of UAE.
What if it does not happen? It is not the end of the line if the results do not work out in the national team’s favour this week. There will be a repechage competition in New Zealand in the first quarter of next year to decide the remaining qualifiers for 2015.
That said, better to get it done sooner.
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- Saturday cover: Big day for England and Australia at Rugby World Cup arrives
- Friday cover: Wales seal win over Fiji, but not in finest fashion
- Thursday cover: Manchester United finally stretch a bit for lofty aims
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