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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 14 August 2018

Deja vu feeling for UAE after Nepal loss in rain-marred cricket World Cup Qualifier warm-up game

West Indies beaten by Afghanistan as their preparation match is also affected by inclement weather in Zimbabwe

Ashfaq Ahmed top-scored for the UAE with 42 against Nepal on Tuesday. ICC
Ashfaq Ahmed top-scored for the UAE with 42 against Nepal on Tuesday. ICC

Sixteen days after they were left thinking their World Cup hopes were over after a loss in a rain-affected fixture against Nepal, the UAE suffered a similar fate in Zimbabwe on Tuesday.

Happily for the national team, the result of the five-wicket defeat in Kwekwe was of little overall consequence. It was the first of two warm-up matches ahead of the serious business of the World Cup Qualifier, which begins for the UAE with a game against Papua New Guinea on Sunday.

The result will no doubt have vexed the national team, though, especially when allied to the fact that the game was limited to 29-overs per side, rather than the 50 they will be playing when the main event starts, because of a sodden outfield.

It must have felt like a familiar experience for both teams. When they met in Namibia on February 11 – in the first of three games they have played against each other this month – Nepal won a 34-over match by four wickets.

Back then, the UAE thought that meant they would almost certainly miss out on the chance to play at the Qualifier. They survived, and indeed bounced back to beat Nepal in the final of World Cricket League Division 2.

This time around, at least the UAE’s batting effort had more to redeem it. Ashfaq Ahmed top-scored with 42 as the national team posted a competitive tally of 171.

Nepal, as has become their custom, won with four balls remaining. That means five of their past seven matches have been decided in the final over.

“The overs were shortened, but both teams played a good intense game, and we managed to cross the hurdle so we are happy with how we have started, moving ahead,” Nepal captain Paras Khadka said.

“We have heard the weather is going to be like this pretty much throughout the tournament. It is not in our control, all we can do is go out there and play good cricket.

“If we can carry this momentum forward, we can produce good performances and maybe come away with wins.”

UAE coach Dougie Brown tweeted a picture of the water-logged outfield before the match, suggesting the conditions were better suited to ducks. “Not sure the weather is helping our training in Kwekwe!” he wrote.

As in Windhoek a fortnight earlier, the ground staff were overworked getting some game-time in. Sawdust was spread liberally on the outfield.

It was likely a frustration for both teams, especially, as Khadka suggested, more rain is forecast to follow.

Bangladesh was initially due to host this Qualifier. When their side made it through directly to the World Cup, though, the ICC switched the venue.

Bids from Zimbabwe, UAE, and a joint effort from Ireland and Scotland were considered. The Emirates Cricket Board is believed to feel frustrated that the competition was arranged at a time when heavy rainfall is likely in Zimbabwe.

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Nepal, in red, and the UAE saw their warm-up match affected by rain. ICC
Nepal, in red, and the UAE saw their warm-up match affected by rain. ICC

However, Brown said changeable weather could turn out to be a positive for his side, who are ranked ninth of the 10 teams in the Qualifier, with Nepal 10th.

“All of a sudden, if the big teams start to focus on anything other than their performance, it gives us a very, very good opportunity,” Brown said of the distraction variable weather can be.

“We as a team strongly believe we can qualify for the World Cup by rights. Assuming the other teams start to look elsewhere, and take their eye off what they are doing day to day, it gives us a very, very good chance.”

As if to prove his point, West Indies, the top-ranked side in the Qualifier, lost their opening warm-up match in a rain-affected fixture against Afghanistan.

The Afghans made 163-9 from 35 overs against the two-time World Cup winners. The target was subsequently revised to 140 from 30 overs. West Indies, for whom Chris Gayle made just 9, were all out for 110.

The other two Full Member sides, Ireland and Zimbabwe, were unable to get any cricket in at all. Their match in Bulawayo was washed out without a ball bowled.

PNG, the UAE’s opening-day opponents, lost their match to Scotland by seven wickets.

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