DUBAI // The amateur players who make up the UAE squad will be driven on this week by the hurt of missing out on qualifying for the 50-over World Cup 11 months ago, according to the in-form Naeemuddin Aslam. The diminutive middle-order batsman has already played in two doomed qualification campaigns in the longer format of limited-overs cricket, even though he is still just 27.
Now firmly established as a mainstay of the national team, the Dubai-born IT architect says only success here will dull the pain of returning from South Africa with nothing last year. He said: "The realisation only hit us when we lost to Scotland [in the final match of the qualifier, which meant the UAE missed out on official one-day status, as well as a place in the 2011 World Cup]. That game is not going to leave my memory any time soon.
"I was sitting in the dressing room after my dismissal, then 10 balls later the innings had folded. I did not even have enough time to go down the stairs to shake hands with the opposition - that is how quickly it was over. "It was so disappointing, but within a couple of months we found out that the World Twenty20 qualifiers would also include us. "It gave us all hope, and another shot at playing in a World Cup.
"We did not care who we were going to play or how it was going to work - we were all just overjoyed we had another opportunity within the space of another year. Within a week, we will know if we are there. "Ever since Ramadan the excitement has been building. It is a big tournament for us. The next qualifiers in the 50-over World Cup are not until 2013, which would have meant we had nothing to look forward to for three years."
The host nation's chances have been assisted by the unexpected return of Saqib Ali. The former captain was handed a one-year ban from the game by the Emirates Cricket Board for an indiscretion in a domestic match, but was allowed to return early. Despite his extended break from the crease, Saqib, the UAE's most prolific batsman, has shown his class since his return. "When we played in the ACC Twenty20 tournament last year, he was not there," said the captain, Khurram Khan. "Now we have him back it has strengthened our batting. He is in good nick, which is very good for us because he is one of our main batsmen." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Tues 9 Feb 10am - Scotland v USA, Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi Midday - Ireland v Afghanistan, Dubai Sports City 2pm - Kenya v UAE, Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi 4pm - Netherlands v Canada, Dubai Sports City Wed 10 Feb 10am - Afghanistan v Scotland, Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi Midday - Canada v Kenya, Dubai Sports City 2pm - USA v Ireland, Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi 4pm - UAE v Netherlands, Dubai Sports City Thur 11 Feb 10am - Canada v UAE, Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi Midday - Afghanistan v USA, Dubai Sports City 2pm - Netherlands v Kenya, Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi 4pm - Ireland v Scotland, Dubai Sports City Fri 12 Feb Midday - Super Fours - First in Group A v Second in Group B, Dubai Sports City 4pm - Super Fours - First in Group B v Second in Group A, Dubai Sports City Sat 13 Feb Midday - First in Group B v First in Group A, Dubai Sports City 4pm - Super Fours - Second in Group A v Second in Group B, Dubai Sports City 7.30pm - Final, Dubai Sports City