x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 14 December 2017

Brown says UAE capable of further improvement despite one-day series win over Zimbabwe A

Coach takes longview as Emirates have busy winter, particularly series of 2019 World Cup qualifiers

UAE captain Rohan Mustafa, left, led from the front as he has been doing on a regular basis. Pawan Singh / The National
UAE captain Rohan Mustafa, left, led from the front as he has been doing on a regular basis. Pawan Singh / The National

The UAE are eyeing a 5-0 whitewash after completing a series-clinching third win against Zimbabwe A on Monday night.

The national team won by 25 runs at the Dubai International Stadium, to add to the four- and five-wicket victories they had managed previously.

The resounding run of results against the Zimbabweans is all the more encouraging for the fact the UAE have been experimenting their starting XI.

Dougie Brown, the UAE coach, has been hoping to create greater competition for places ahead of a vital winter for the game in this country.

A place at the 2019 World Cup, as well as a significant sum of ICC funding, will be dependent on how the national team fare between now and the end of March.

In the previous match, two debutant batsmen, Ashfaq Ahmed and Mohammed Boota, had scored half-centuries.

Another newcomer, Mohammed Asaf, was blooded this time around, albeit without especially noteworthy results.

Instead the main architects of the win were the usual tried and trusted performers. Rohan Mustafa led from the front as he has done so often since taking over the captaincy earlier this year.

He hit 46 against the new ball which proved increasingly impressive as the match progressed and the pitch slowed.

He and Mohammed Qasim shared a breezy alliance worth 74 for the first wicket. Thereafter, batting seemed a struggle.

The home team lost four wickets for 30 runs, and were stuck against the seemingly innocuous leg-spin of Brandon Mavuta, who took 2-17 from his 10 overs.

Amjad Javed, Mustafa’s predecessor as captain, provided much-needed late-innings impetus with some characteristically violent hitting.

The Emirates airline cargo-loader hit four sixes in a 26-ball innings of 39 not out, to hoist the UAE to 214-8 from their 50 overs.

Amjad subsequently walked away with the man of the match trophy, as he also took two wickets as the tourists fell short in reply.

Ahmed Raza was typically metronomic with his left-arm spin, as he took 2-28, while Zahoor Khan’s canny pace bowling brought him 3-40.

The UAE’s fielding effort was tatty at times, but was redeemed by some brilliant catching, chiefly by Rameez Shahzad, who pocketed two – most memorably one diving at mid-wicket to dismiss Ryan Burl.

“There are still things we can improve on, and that is why we are playing these games,” Brown said.

“At the start of this series, we said that these games are important, as are the forthcoming games against Afghanistan [in the Intercontinental Cup] and Nepal [in the World Cricket League].

“But, by a mile, the most important games the UAE have probably ever played are the ones in February in Namibia, in the World Cricket League Division Two, where we have to play our best cricket.

“This series is an opportunity to use players that we haven’t seen very much of, and find out if they are players we want to be taking forwards.”

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The six-team tournament in Namibia in February is the UAE’s last chance to make it to the World Cup Qualifier, which will be played in Zimbabwe the following month.

They must finish in the top two in Windhoek, then repeat that feat in Zimbabwe, if they are going to make it to a second successive World Cup.

“So far, have we got everything right? No we haven’t, but we have played as a really good team irrespective of the personnel who have played in the games so far,” Brown said.

“We still need to keep improving, but we are finding out more and more about the players that we have.”