Afghanistan 70 all out
UAE 71-2 (UAE win by eight wickets)
DUBAI // Afghanistan may be the Cinderella team of world cricket, sweeping all before them on the way from the refugee camps to the verge of the top flight, a fairy tale which has already spawned one movie.
They may be able to push the likes of Australia and Pakistan to the limit in limited-over international matches, in front of thousands in the stands and millions on TV.
They may have full one-day international status, and have played at two World Twenty20 tournaments in the space of just over two years.
But be that as it may, if these one-sided matches against the UAE go on for much longer, the national team may have to think about dropping the Afghans from the fixture list.
The UAE extended one of Asian cricket's great anomalies as they beat the defending ACC Trophy champions by eight wickets in their semi-final at Dubai Sports City yesterday.
So Afghanistan, the side commonly regarded as international cricket's coming force, let alone Asia's, have still never beaten the UAE in a 50 over match.
"I don't know what it is all about, but they have never won a game against us in 50 over games - even in practice games," said Ahmed Raza, the UAE left-arm spinner whose three wickets for six runs earned him the man of the match award.
"They go abroad, they beat Ireland, they beat Holland - then they come to play against us and they lose to us.
"I think they feel pressure and they are not such good players of spin bowling. Our strength has always been spin bowling and they have always struggled against us."
As analyses go, Raza's is about as accurate as saying in gets dark at night, or that summers in the UAE are hot. The Afghans were paralysed by the national team's multifaceted spin attack.
Given the glut of matches that have been played at the Global Cricket Academy in such a short space of time for this tournament, it was little surprise the pitch was starting to wear and take turn.
However, Afghanistan's capitulation with the bat was mostly self-inflicted. The match started 45 minutes late as the sides waited for the dense fog of yesterday morning in Dubai to lift.
Karim Sadiq smashed the first ball for four through mid-off. Thereafter, though, it seemed as though it was the minds of the Afghan batsmen which were misty.
Shadeep Silva, taking the new-ball as per usual for the UAE with his left-arm spin, applied the squeeze expertly, as he took three for 16 from his 10 over spell.
While Raza took the small trinket given out as the match award, realistically it was Shadeep who spun the game in the favour of the host nation.
"Having the new-ball can be difficult for a spinner, but now I have the control to do it and I do it most of the time in domestic cricket too," said the 34 year old Sri Lankan expatriate.
"In other tournaments we have never lost to Afghanistan either. They seem to be scared of our bowlers and that is why we have the advantage."
The UAE even had enough wriggle-room to burn some chances. They put down catches, missed a stumping, yet still limited the outgoing champions to a paltry total of 70.
Afghanistan's management complained bitterly about the pitch afterwards, but their complaints held little sway given how easy the UAE went about the run chase. If the pitch was, as they claimed, underprepared, batting second on it would have been just as tough.
The national team had to marshal a fiery new-ball spell from Shapoor Zadran before they got the win.
The rangy left-arm quick was annoyed that he had been given out lbw earlier on, and gave quite a performance in showing his upset.
In among the histrionics, he bowled well, too, but Haroon Iftikhar and Shaiman Anwar were capable enough to guide the side to a place in tomorrow's final.
Man of the match: Ahmed Raza (UAE)