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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 14 August 2018

Dougie Brown says UAE travel for World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe 'in good shape'

Dougie Brown, the UAE coach, believes his side will be better equipped to compete at the World Cup Qualifier thanks to their experiences in World Cricket League Division 2.

The players and coaching staff cut far more relaxed figures in Thursday’s final against Nepal than they had done at any point over the previous eight days.

Many confessed to having endured sleepless nights because of fears that they would not make it to the Qualifier. That would have seen UAE cricket lose the privilege of one-day international status, and the seam of ICC funding that goes with it.

Having eventually made it through thanks to a dramatic win over Namibia in Wednesday’s final pool match, Brown thinks his side are now competition-hardened and ready for the 10-team Qualifier.

“Whichever teams qualify from here they were always going to be in good shape to go there,” Brown said of the tournament in Zimbabwe, which starts on March 4.

“This is a really meaningful tournament, and tournament-play has different pressures to [for example] a three-match series.

“Zimbabwe is going to be a very similar tournament for a number of teams. We go to Zimbabwe with some really telling cricket under our belts, and we know what that pressure is all about.”

UAE players celebrate their 19-run win over Namibia at the World Cricket League Division 2 in Windhoek. Courtesy ICC World Cricket League
UAE players celebrate their 19-run win over Namibia at the World Cricket League Division 2 in Windhoek. Courtesy ICC World Cricket League

UAE still have much work to do to retain their status. They need to finish as one of the three best side’s in a competition containing themselves, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Scotland and Hong Kong, but Brown feels there will be less pressure than they faced in Division 2.

“We are not going to be the ones who are under pressure to perform out there,” Brown said.

“There won’t be this pressure on us, because the expectation is much less. West Indies, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Ireland, they go there with huge expectation.

“I’m sure that at some stage at least one of them will fall foul of that expectation.”

While this tournament has been about fighting to preserve what they already have for the UAE, progression marks a new landmark for cricket-mad Nepal.

The fact ODI status is now technically only a few matches away from their grasp makes a joke of the fact the country’s cricket administration is currently suspended by the ICC.

Paras Khadka, Nepal’s captain, said the achievement of the players in advancing to the Qualifier is even more significant when set against that backdrop.

“It has been years and year of hard work,” Khadka said. “We have been very, very honest as players representing our country, in spite of everything that is not stable back home, in terms of how our cricket structure is.

“The players and coaching staff over all these years, not just this generation of players, but for the past 15 years, everyone has put in a lot of work. To cross the Division 2 hurdle for the first time, I couldn’t be more proud.”

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None of the other five nations in this competition has anything like the fan following that exists in Nepal, and that supporter base were certainly given their fair share of entertainment.

Nepal ended with a negative net run-rate, despite topping the pool with four wins from five matches. That is an indicator of the closeness of each of their matches.

Three went to the final over, two to the very last ball, while their decisive win against Canada, with eight scored off the last two balls to win, was surely one of the most extraordinary matches ever seen in any form of international cricket.

“The way we did it, I would definitely have taken an easier way, but as long as you cross that [winning] line, that is what matters,” Khadka said.

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