Captain Mustafa top-scored with 95 before Naveed took five wickets in Harare
Naveed battles through the pain to help UAE defeat Papua New Guinea in World Cup Qualifier opener
Shortly after the close of the UAE’s opening match of the World Cup Qualifier, Mohammed Naveed went into the makeshift medical centre in the pavilion of the Harare Sports Club.
He sat on a bench surrounded by medics, and carefully peeled off the dressing on a deep cut on his left hand.
The same staff had applied three stitches to the wound three days earlier, but it had reopened, and blood was weeping over the bandages. Naveed was clearly in agony as he pulled back the layers.
But, hey, he’s got another hand – the one that sent down the deliveries that had just brought him his first five-wicket haul in one-day internationals, and the UAE a vital first win in the Qualifier.
The 56-run win over Papua New Guinea looks comfortable after the event. But, following on so quickly from the fraught shenanigans of the World Cricket League Division 2 in Namibia last month, it still fell rent with drama.
Good sense clearly left the ICC long ago. The fact there are 10 teams in Zimbabwe at present fighting over just two places in next year’s World Cup is testament to that.
Further evidence lies in the fact this tournament has been organised at a time when showers are a constant threat. The teams were forced off by rain twice during the course of the UAE’s innings of 221 all out.
And then a shower that was heavy enough to force even the rugby players on the neighbouring field to head inside for shelter visited between innings. So the PNG target was reduced to 175 from 36 overs.
The UAE would have been twitchy at that point. Rain abbreviations tend to favour the side chasing, and the UAE had twice suffered defeat in such a situation over the past month.
Naveed, though, dispelled any lingering nerves, with a new-ball blitz that brought him four wickets in the first seven overs of PNG’s effort.
The medical staff revelled in it, telling him after that they were willing him to a hat-trick. He missed out on three in three balls, but managed five in the final count up.
It was quite the effort, given he could only field the ball one-handed, and batted No 11 because of the pain of gripping the bat.
The injury occurred when he caught his hand on the spikes on the sole of Qadeer Ahmed’s boot, in an accident during practice before the warm-up match against West Indies on Thursday.
He was not going to miss that match, despite it not being relevant to the tournament proper – and of course he was not going to miss the PNG game. These matches are far too important for that.
“The coach and captain said, ‘It’s up to you, if you want to play, play, or if you want to rest, then rest’,” Naveed said.
“But with that choice, I want to play, because you don’t get to play against Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis daily. Those chances don’t come along often.
“I want to play. These matches are very important for UAE. We are playing for our lives. I had to play.”
Naveed praised coach Dougie Brown and captain Rohan Mustafa for their influence on the win.
“The captain and coach gave me lots of confidence, and they said just to bowl wicket-to-wicket balls, not to worry too much about planning,” Naveed said.
“I did that, bowled wicket to wicket, and with not too much variety, and ended with five wickets. It was a simple plan.”
Mustafa, whose innings of 95 had been the centrepiece of UAE’s effort with the bat, said his side had been confident against a side they beat in all three formats in Abu Dhabi last year.
“We played against PNG a few times in UAE, and felt they stayed back a lot, looking to cut and pull,” Mustafa said.
“Naveed had bowled well against West Indies, taking the wickets of Chris Gayle and Lewis. I told him to pitch it up, as it was swinging it was going to be difficult to play him.”