SHARJAH // One down, one to go, and then a week of biting fingernails to the quick.
The UAE’s cricketers have a place at the ICC World Cup within their grasp. But they have been here before, and it does not always end well.
On the evidence of the past week, the UAE will have more trouble finding Kenya flags with which to show their support in the coming days than they will beating Namibia for a second time on Sunday.
Having thrashed the inexperienced African side within two days in a match that was supposed to last four last week, they were similarly dominant in limited overs competition on Friday.
The UAE’s spinners, Khurram Khan, Shadeep Silva and Ahmed Raza, took nine wickets for 26 runs between them as Namibia fell to what was comfortably the lowest total ever in this competition.
If they repeat the trick at Sharjah Stadium on Sunday afternoon, the national team will move into the second automatic qualifying place for the 2015 World Cup.
The home players will then be hoping Kenya can do them a favour by stealing a win off Afghanistan in the one-day internationals on Wednesday and Friday.
They will never have been such avid spectators at a cricket match before.
“Half our job is done,” said Khurram, the captain.
“We still have one match to play, we have to win that and then whatever happens after that in the next two matches is all up to God. So far we have done our part very well.”
In truth, Khurram’s team did not have to get out of second gear on Friday to go one up in this vital two-game series.
The batting was a struggle on a tired Sharjah batting wicket, but they had just enough firepower to see them through.
Shaiman Anwar’s innings of 54 took his World Cricket League tally to 568 in 13 matches.
The UAE opener needs 28 runs on Sunday to overhaul Scotland’s Kyle Coetzer as the leading run scorer in the competition.
Then with the ball, Khurram did not even need to use his premier bowler, Nasir Aziz, in completing the 158-run rout.
The huge difference between the two teams is perhaps forgivable given the vast experience the UAE have, especially in home conditions.
The national team have eight wins in this qualifying competition so far, of which six have come at Sharjah Stadium.
Khurram thought the young Namibian side, which contains three 17 year olds, adapted well to their alien conditions.
However, his own side are up for this battle with such a valuable prize in sight.
“When we are defending low scores, we say that we have to feel like we are defending 100, not 200,” the captain said.
“I want energy, and the players to put everything they have into it. In the first 20 overs we have to show the opponents we are out there to win.”
Aaqib Javed, the UAE coach, is hopeful the other African nation heading to Sharjah next week will be able to do his side a favour, should the national team succeed on Sunday.
“We expect Kenya to do well in one of their games,” the coach said.
“The players are happy and excited and want to do well. They have progressed to a good level and have responded well to what has been asked of them.”