Rohan Mustafa says 'luck was with us' as UAE beat Namibia to advance to World Cup Qualifier
Rohan Mustafa, the UAE captain, said his players had saved their careers after the national team advanced to the next phase of World Cup qualifying on a nerve-shredding day in Namibia.
Mustafa bowled the final over that clinched a 19-run win over the host nation in the World Cricket League Division 2 at Affies Park in Windhoek.
However, had Nepal and Canada tied their own final pool match, both those sides would have advanced at the expense of the UAE.
Playing on the adjacent field at Wanderers Sports Club, which is less than 100 yards away from Affies, the scores were level between those two sides with just one ball remaining.
Nepal scored the single they needed to win the game, and by turn send the UAE through to the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe next month.
“To be honest, I was not aware [that a tie between Nepal and Canada would have sent UAE out] until someone told me they had just chased it on the last ball,” Mustafa said.
“Somewhere, somehow, you need to find some luck. The luck was with us.”
Failure to progress from this competition would have had severe ramifications for cricket in the UAE.
It would have meant an immediate end to one-day international status, and therefore a dramatic reduction in financing from the ICC.
Any shortfall in future funding would have an impact on many areas of the elite game in the Emirates, including on the professional contracts a number of the players have.
“I am usually calm because I am used to bowling the death overs, but today it was something different for us, because I think it could have been our careers over,” Mustafa said.
“I can’t tell you about the past three days. We had a very good team, and we were expecting something different [better results at the tournament].
“Yesterday, I woke up 22 times in the night. I was so tense. Thanks to everyone from the UAE who has sent so many messages, telling us guys to be ourselves and play as we can.”
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The national team might yet lose their ODI status. They have to finish in the top three out of Scotland, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Nepal and themselves when they play in Zimbabwe next month to safeguard that status.
There is, of course, also the ultimate incentive of a place at next year’s World Cup in England at that competition, too.
“Genuinely, the past three days have been the longest three days of my life,” Dougie Brown, the UAE coach, said.
“The pressure over the course of this whole tournament up to this point has been ridiculous, as it has been for all the coaches and players of every single team.
“We all know what we are playing for. We are playing for our livelihoods, our actual existence.
“Non-qualification from here didn’t bear thinking about. At one stage, after we lost to Nepal, we thought it was a distinct possibility. We actually thought we were out of the competition at that stage.”
Shaiman Anwar top-scored with 77 to take the UAE to 247-6 from their 50 overs. The Namibians fell short after Mustafa and Amir Hayat took three wickets each.
“We were pressurised before the match,” Shaiman said. “Everybody is happy because we can go to Zimbabwe and try to retain our ODI status. We will try our best over there.”