Colin Wells, the UAE coach, expressed his shock after his side were knocked out of the ACC Trophy last night, despite having beaten the tournament favourites and racked up a record victory in their previous two pool matches. The Emirates tumbled out of the competition in Kuwait, despite having a semi-final berth firmly within their grasp, following a two-wicket defeat to Malaysia in their final group match.
An alarming capitulation by the UAE batsmen left the Malaysians with a target of 153 for victory. The fact they achieved it in less than 28.2 overs meant they snatched second place in Pool B in the competition from the Emirates. Remarkably, Wells's team were eliminated on net run-rate, even though they won their opening game by a landslide 434 runs against the minnows, Bhutan. "We are shocked, but all credit to Malaysia," said Wells. "We gave them the opportunity and they took it. Their seam attack bowled very good opening bursts.
"It is very disappointing, obviously. "I have no complaints about the competition, but it does seem odd that you post a record score and win, and you beat Afghanistan in the next game. One massive win and another against the best team in the tournament, on paper, then you narrowly lose the next game - and you are out the competition." On the eve of the tournament Dilawar Mani, chief executive of the Emirates Cricket Board, had said that a place in the final was the expectation, and history supported his optimism.
The UAE have won the Trophy more times - four - than any other nation, and have only missed one of the seven finals since the tournament's inception in 1996. They had never previously lost to Malaysia in the ACC Trophy, and with two rousing wins under their belt already in Kuwait, had reason to feel confident. Wells still believed his side are the best in Asia - outside of the Test elite - in the 50-over game, despite the upset of their premature exit.
"I do feel that, given our full strength squad," he added. "I still think, at 50 overs, we are the best team in the tournament. "As we did in February's World Twenty20 qualifier, we missed Mohammed Tauqir and Amjad Javed. Amjad in particular gives a lot of balance to the team." Tauqir and Javed have both had extended spells on the sidelines due to hand injuries. The UAE also lost batsman, Amjad Ali, after he was refused entry on arrival in Kuwait. They were forced to rely on an unusual source of inspiration yesterday as their most reliable batsmen all misfired at the same time. Salman Farooq, the lone Emirati and least experienced player in the side, did his best to repair the damage. The 28-year-old Dubai resident is nominally an off-spin bowler, but he rallied the lower-order with 40 from 63 balls. "You just have to accept it. That is cricket," said a dejected Farooq. "It is a game that can do that to you, and we are unlucky to miss out on run-rate. "We had played both the previous matches so well, then one loss made us go out. It is so disappointing to go out like this. We felt like we had done all the hard work by beating Afghanistan. "It is sad. After beating Afghanistan, having beaten Bhutan by such a large margin, it is bizarre." Malaysia have earned a semi-final today against Nepal. Afghanistan, who are readying themselves for greater challenges at the World Twenty20 later this month, will face Oman in the other match. firstname.lastname@example.org