Ahmed Raza guides UAE to biggest ODI win in 26 years as they crush Namibia in World Cup League Two
Opponents bowled out for just 94 as victory is secured with more than 30 overs to spare in Oman
Ahmed Raza must have wondered what he had been thinking for much of the time after accepting the captaincy of the UAE team in extremis in October.
The team was in turmoil. Results were poor. And in response to the whole sorry mess, a load of accomplished players went, to be replaced by a bunch of kids instead.
And then days like Thursday must make him think all might be worth it in the end.
The national team thrashed Namibia by eight wickets, with more than 30 overs to spare in Al Amerat, after dismissing their opponents for just 94. It was UAE’s most resounding win on 26 years of playing one-day international cricket.
It was also their third win in four matches, following on from their torrid start to the Cricket World Cup League Two. Raza, too, got the chance to reflect in some overdue personal glory.
He was awarded the match-ball, as well as the man of the match trophy, for taking 5-26 in eight overs of left-arm spin. It was his first five-wicket haul in his 31-ODI career to date.
Raza did not dwell much on his own return, other than to say “it was pleasing to contribute with the ball.”
Rather, he opted to focus on the difference the young players in the side are making.
“These players don’t come with any baggage of past failures,” Raza said. “That is refreshing to have. If you look at the younger players, they play with freedom.
“They play with responsibility as well. But that freedom they have, that is a big positive for us as a squad.”
On the UAE’s one day off on tour of Oman so far, Raza had chaperoned the young brigade on an excursion to a sinkhole 130kms away from the team hotel in Muscat.
It is probably not the only time since taking on the captaincy that he might have felt like a schoolteacher in charge of pupils.
“I tried to spend time with everyone, because I am still getting to know them,” Raza said.
“It is good to go out for food with them, or have a day trip like that. They should feel comfortable around me as well, with me being one of the oldest members of the team as well.
“That feels weird [being one of the older players in the side]. I haven’t heard that for a long time, but it is good. They are open with me now.”
So youthful is the national team now that one player has had to bring his schoolbooks with him on tour, while three others have had to get permission to miss lectures at university.
Of the four batsmen needed for the UAE to chase down the 95 they needed to win, the oldest was Chirag Suri at 24.
Jonathan Figy, 18, top scored with 32 not out. Vriitya Aravind, 17, got the chase off to a fast start, making 29 in 16 balls. And the winning runs were scored by 21-year-old Darius D’Silva.
D'Silva had bookended the day brilliantly, having opened up with a sparkling new-ball spell that went a long way to winning the game for the national team.
He took the first three wickets to fall, and Namibia failed to recover from being 22-3 within the first 10 overs.
“There were seaming conditions, so I just told myself to keep it nice and simple as the ball was doing so much, and not over-think it too much,” D’Silva said.
“I needed to stick to my stock ball, and let the ball do the rest.”
UAE will complete their tour as they try to avenge their opening day loss to Oman, when they face the hosts on Saturday.
Updated: January 9, 2020 04:26 PM