SHARJAH // The UAE’s cricketers took a sizeable leap towards completing their part of an equation that could see them playing at the 2015 World Cup after thrashing Namibia on Friday.
Shadeep Silva, who is a storekeeper for a catering company by day, kept the part-timers of the national team on course for their ultimate goal with the seminal spell of bowling.
The spin-bowler from Sri Lanka took three for 11 from eight overs as the Namibians capitulated to a pitiful 39 all out.
The landslide 158-run win meant the UAE moved to third place in the qualifying league, and advanced their overall run-rate significantly.
If they can win in similarly convincing fashion against the same opposition on Sunday, they will move into the second automatic qualifying place for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
If that did happen, only Afghanistan, who play two matches against Kenya at the same venue next week, would then be able to stop the national team from advancing.
“I just stuck to the basics,” Silva said. “For the past one-and-a-half years I have bowled the first over in 50-over matches, and I try to bowl wicket to wicket and look for lbws.
“We really wanted to win this match as it was so important for us as we try to qualify for the World Cup. Now [Sunday’s] game against Namibia is just the same and we need to do well.”
The first match of the UAE’s crucial double-header against the African side was literally and metaphorically men against boys.
The home team have two players in their 40s and their youngest is about to turn 25.
By contrast, circumstances have dictated that Namibia have brought such an inexperienced side here for this series that it included three 17 year olds.
The vast gulf in cricketing nous was all too apparent.
Neither side found conditions easier, but the elder statesmen from the home side were wise enough to find a way to cope.
By contrast, the raw touring side, who are missing a variety of senior players to work commitments and injuries, crumbled to the lowest score yet recorded in World Cricket League.
“It is quite tough because we are missing a few of the bigger lads, like Craig Williams and Sarel Burger,” said Raymond van Schoor, the Namibia captain. “But I don’t think there is any excuse for the cricket we are playing at the moment.
“We are putting all the hard work in at nets and preparing well, but we obviously need to start pulling up our socks.”
The UAE were indebted to two players of contrasting pedigree as they eventually scraped together 197 all out with the bat.
Shaiman Anwar has been the premier batsman in the national team for some time now.
His innings of 54 opening the batting was his seventh score of 50 or better in his past 11 innings for the UAE, and knitted together the fragile top order.
Yet his salvo was less vital than the 43 Mohammed Shafiq accrued later on.
At 44 years old, Shafiq was playing his first 50 over international match – 24 years after making his debut in first-class cricket in his native Pakistan.
Those years of experience proved invaluable as he repaired the UAE innings by sharing in a 79-run alliance for the sixth wicket with Rohan Mustafa, a player who is 20 years younger than Shafiq.
“It was a wonderful partnership and it set up the match for us,” said Khurram Khan, the victorious UAE captain who also took three cheap wickets.
“I was thinking anything above 170 was going to be a good total and at one point it looked like it was going to be around 120, but they batted so well. In the end it was enough.”