DUBAI // An unbeaten century from man of the match Marwan Khamis, helped the UAE to victory over Kuwait yesterday in the opening match of the Twenty20 Gulf Cup. Khamis hit six sixes and four fours in the first tournament to feature international Gulf teams populated completely by nationals from the participating nations, rather than expatriate players.
The Gulf Cup concludes this evening with an Oman versus UAE showdown. Saudi Arabia are the fourth team in the two-day tournament. Held at the Dubai Aluminium cricket ground, Khamis and captain Alawi Albraik, the UAE's most experienced players, combined to reach a total of 211-1 with Albraik scoring 85 not out and the rest of the runs coming from extras. Opening batsman, Saef Murad, was out first ball in his first competitive match. Kuwait fielded energetically but their inexperience showed, with Albraik and Khamis's lengthy stints at the crease and flamboyant batting aided by a number of dropped catches.
After the break, the UAE ate steadily into Kuwait's batting line-up with medium-pace bowler Khamis claiming the first two scalps and Albraik taking two, his first standing out because he caught and bowled Mohammed Akil, making up for his two earlier dropped catches. Ibrahim al Mazrool accounted for two in his second spell receiving praise for his performance in a maiden competitive match. Abdullah Saef, 14, claimed Kuwait's final wicket with his accurate bowling in the final over. Kuwait finished on 92 for seven.
"I think this is an important day for cricket in the Middle East, not just for the UAE," said Albraik, 22, who played on the UAE's Emirates Cricket Board-backed representative international team before leaving to play for the UAE National Cricket Club. "We set up this club two years ago to cater to Emiratis who were not getting a chance in the national team. Our team manager Abdulrazzak Kazim and I decided to organise this tournament because we wanted to give our players a goal.
"Already we can see it has been a big success and the passion that you can see on the pitch from the UAE and also from the other countries shows that there is an interest and a future in the sport among Arab nationals." Kazim, a former long-time member of the ECB, who has been a selector and a coach, before stepping back to concentrate on developing Emirati players, said that not enough was being done to identify and nurture UAE nationals.
"This tournament is new in the history of the Gulf and is a dream come true for me," he said. "It has been a long time in coming and we think it shows that UAE nationals are interested. "Many of our team have never played a match before but we are showing that where there is a will there is a way." email@example.com