SHARJAH // Kabir Khan, the national team coach, says his side have sent “a message across the world” that the UAE are back, after beating Afghanistan.
The baggage handlers, store-keepers and bank workers who make up the national team beat the Afghans, who are widely regarded as one of the leading non-Test nations, in a World Cup qualifier in Sharjah.
Khurram Khan, the 40-year-old who captains the national team when he is not jetting around the world in his day job with Emirates Airline, was the all-round talisman again.
He scored 53, took four wickets, and claimed a seminal one-handed diving catch as the UAE beat the Afghans by 15 runs in a thrilling limited-overs match at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Afghanistan played at the World Twenty20 last year, and are among the favourites to take one of the two qualifying berths for the 50-over version via this eight-team league.
However, Kabir reckons his side demand respect because of the manner in which they dominated the Afghans in a recent four-day match, and now beat them here.
“This a clear cut message for anyone in the world among the Associate countries that UAE is back, and we mean business,” the coach said.
“I would love to beat them again [when the two sides meet for a second and final time at Sharjah on Wednesday], just to show we are there.
“It is nothing against Afghanistan, nothing against anyone. If we can beat the top teams, like Ireland, Afghanistan and Scotland, all the teams above us, it is a message.
“On the first day I came to the UAE, that is what I wanted, to send a message across the world that the UAE can do it.”
If anyone is looking for clues as to how the Test wicket will play when Pakistan play Sri Lanka at this ground next month, there were some intriguing pointers here.
On this evidence, it will be a bowler’s graveyard for the first four days, then after approximately 30 overs of the fifth, it will suddenly become a minefield.
It was as docile as a featherbed for the four-day Intercontinental Cup match, which preceded this 50-over game, and seemed no different when Khurram (53) and Shaiman Anwar (42) took the UAE to 131 for two by the 24th over.
Then in the 30th over, it was as though a flick was switched, and batting suddenly became impossible.
Dawlat Zadran, the Afghan quick-bowler, benefited most, taking three quick wickets as the national team crumbled to 198 all out.
Khurram then led a brave effort with the ball, as the UAE strangled the Afghan reply to win in the penultimate over of the match.