SHARJAH // At nine years old and barely four feet tall, Hamad Karim is really pushing his luck if he wants to be considered a 12th-man. In truth, he has only recently graduated from being 12th-toddler.
However, he perfectly represents the fresh face of Emirati cricket. Such was the UAE's dominance against Kuwait in the Gulf Cup for Arab nationals yesterday, they brought the youngest member of their squad out to play as a substitute fielder for the last two overs.
He was in the middle of the celebrations when victory was sealed by 140 runs.
The Emirati players know that a tough examination faces them when they meet Oman in the final tonight, but they have an eye on the wider picture, too.
"Arab countries don't play that much cricket, but if they can see that there are Arab nationals playing the game well it will encourage younger players and help develop the game," Salman Farooq, the UAE all-rounder, said.
Farooq is one of the leading UAE cricketers. He is one of the few Emiratis to have played for the full UAE team, and he was too good for the novice Kuwaitis yesterday. He scored a 20-ball 33, then followed that with four wickets to set up the win.
Despite the hefty defeat, the travelling side were anything but discouraged. "It is a great achievement for us to even compete here, some of our players have barely had two months' practise," Taher Bastaki, the Kuwait captain, said.
"I am very proud that we are all nationals and original citizens of Kuwait. When we play in the third GCC tournament, we will be better prepared."
Now the UAE will have to avenge three consecutive defeats against Oman, who thrashed Saudi Arabia in yesterday's other pool match, if they are to win the trophy.
The hosts will be encouraged by the variety of players who made contributions to their victory over Kuwait.
Their opening night win over Saudi Arabia was dominated by two senior players, Fahad al Hashmi and Mohammed Tauqir, but they have proved they are not solely reliant on them.
Tauqir sat out this win with a thigh strain sustained against Oman, but is likely to be fit for the final.
Against Kuwait, each of the UAE's top four exceeded 33, and made their runs in good time. Marwan Khamis's 40 from 23 balls was the top score, while Alawi Shukri, the captain, made 35 from 24, al Hashmi 38 from 22 and Farooq 33 from 20.
They set the platform, and some powerful late-order hitting from Ali Mohammed and Saif Murad hoisted the total to a daunting 224 for six, which was never likely to be threatened by the Kuwaitis.
Farooq took four for 32 from his four overs, and Abdullah Mohammed, a teenage seamer, took two for one and sent down a maiden, a rarity in Twenty20 cricket, as Kuwait were all out for 84.
"Last time we played Oman we just dropped too many catches," Farooq said. "They have a strong top order, but they lack some depth in the middle order.
"We have a decent batting line up and good bowling, so hopefully we can get revenge and win the cup.
"We are one game away from it, so hopefully everyone will give 100 per cent and we can lift it this time."