The UAE have kept their ACC Trophy hopes alive with a convincing victory in Dubai as they gained revenge for defeat to Hong Kong four years ago.
Back to the future for UAE cricketers with win over Hong Kong
UAE 218-4 (42.2ov)
Hong Kong 215 (50ov)
DUBAI // Khurram Khan acknowledged that four years of hurt contributed sizeable inspiration for the UAE's dominant display against Hong Kong at Dubai Sports City yesterday.
An established core of players still remains in the national team from the day their long unbeaten record in the ACC Trophy fell in a rain-affected final against Hong Kong in 2008.
Khurram was the captain back then. The defeat is one of the few blemishes on his sparkling resume for the UAE, and he admits it does still gnaw away at him - to the point he even raised it in the team meeting before yesterday's game.
"Matches like that always stick in your mind, even though I still think we performed very well that day," Khurram said of the anguish of that defeat in Malaysia.
"In the team meetings we discussed that final, from the point of keeping in mind Hong Kong can produce performances like that.
"They can take the game away from you. That game was in the back of the mind today, so it was important we gave our best."
While this six-wicket win may have had its roots in the past, it also greatly brightened the national team's immediate future prospects.
Had the UAE lost, they would almost certainly have missed out on a semi-final place, having lost their opening game to Nepal.
The subsequent win, though, allied to a surprise four-wicket win by Kuwait over the Nepalese in Al Dhaid totally changed the complexion of their pool.
Now a win against Kuwait today would guarantee a semi-final place. If they can make it a comprehensive one, it will likely mean they avoid the champions Afghanistan in the last four.
"The group is getting very close so everyone needs to be alert and we have been concentrating on run-rate, too," said Aaqib Javed, the UAE coach. "This match was a tough one, but we wanted the win and we really pushed hard for it.
"It is a good comeback from us and I hope we won't repeat the performance we did against Nepal."
The execution of the win was typical of the UAE. Nine bowlers were used in the Hong Kong innings; six of them were successful, with Manjule Guruge and Ahmed Raza the pick, taking three wickets apiece.
Shaiman Anwar, one of the few mainstays of the batting line up who is not a remnant of the 2008 Trophy final, was the pick of the batsmen.
The stocky right-hander made 83, sharing in valuable partnerships with his captain and Saqib Ali to guide his side over the winning line.
"It was a very good wicket and the plan was to build partnerships, which we didn't do against Nepal," Anwar said.
The part-time cricketers from the Maldives became the latest to bear the brunt of Afghanistan’s frustrations, as they were comprehensively beaten in the ACC Trophy yesterday.
The Afghans arrived in the UAE for this tournament on the back of what they felt was an underwhelming display during the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.
They have been determined to return to their destructive best at the first opportunity, and their third win so far in this tournament was as comprehensive as it gets.
The Trophy champions chased down the 144-run target set by the minnows from the Maldives with almost half of their quota of overs left to spare.
As a sign of their dominance, Mohammed Nabi, who had earlier taken three wickets, finished the game with four successive sixes.
“Critics said we looked like we played very well, but people like myself and those who have seen us play a lot know we underperformed [in the World T20],” said Kabir Khan, Afghanistan’s coach.
“Talent-wise, the team is much more talented than what they showed. It is not about winning or losing, it is about showing 100 per cent of their abilities.”
Malaysia gave themselves a good chance of advancing from the group along with the Afghans with a two-wicket win over Oman in Abu Dhabi.
Two teenagers did the damage for the Malaysian side. The new-ball bowler Nazril Rahman, 19, took five wickets, while Mohammed Anwar, the spinner who has just turned 16, took three.
Oman still have a grip on second place currently, despite having lost two of their three matches, but Malaysia have a game against Maldives today in hand on their rivals.