SHARJAH // Ahmed Raza warmed up for the eminently more important business of this weekend’s World Cup qualifiers by returning career-best figures for the UAE against Namibia yesterday.
The UAE vice-captain has never previously managed a five-wicket haul in first-class cricket, but managed seven for 37 on the opening morning of the Intercontinental Cup tie.
Raza kissed the badge on his jersey when his seventh wicket completed the rout of the inexperienced Namibian batting line-up.
The four-day game is essentially a meaningless preamble before the serious work begins on Friday, an attempt to qualify for the 2015 World Cup in Australia.
The national team could not have started the week any better. Despite losing the toss, they expended minimal sweat in dismissing the young touring side for 90 in 48.4 overs.
When play resumes at Sharjah Cricket Stadium this morning, the home side will hold a lead of 71 with their strong lower order batting still to come.
“It means the world to me,” Raza said. “I am a Pakistani, but I was born here and even though they don’t give you citizenship, I consider this country my country.
“I was born here, raised here, played all my cricket here. This country has given me a lot and I owe everything to them.” Namibia’s decision to bat first on what looked to be a typical featherbed wicket in Sharjah hinted at the inexperience of a side who are missing a number of leading players for their tour here.
Accepted wisdom in these parts suggests one of the few chances of bowlers gleaning any life from this pitch is in the first session of the match, before the moisture is baked out.
“We had been planning to bowl first but Khurram [Khan, the UAE captain] lost the toss and that turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” Raza said.
“There was some sharp turn in the morning but the wicket started to dry out after lunch and it was not spinning crazily. We had to stick to our lines and lengths after that.
“There is only slow turn now and we are not thinking that they will get out for less than 100 again.” The UAE might have been even better-placed this morning. The two mainstays of the national team’s batting line up, Shaiman Anwar and Khurram Khan, both holed out on the boundary when well set.
Shaiman was eventually caught on the fence off the bowling of the spinner Xander Pitchers, 19, for 81. The dismissal meant he was deprived a third century in the space of five innings for the national team.
“It was a little disappointing to get out that way, but you had to go after the bad balls because scoring is not easy,” Shaiman said.
“It was not an easy wicket to bat on. Fifteen wickets fell today and you have to work hard for your runs, because the outfield is not very quick.”