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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Shahzad's match-winning century against Scotland gives UAE cause for optimism ahead of Namibia tour

Coach Dougie Brown delighted by way they signed off tri-series, involving Scotland and Ireland, ahead of challenges to come

UAE batsman Rameez Shahzad played a great innings against Scotland on Tuesday. Chris Whiteoak / The National
UAE batsman Rameez Shahzad played a great innings against Scotland on Tuesday. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Rameez Shahzad hit his first one-day international century to guide the UAE to an impressive four-wicket win over Scotland at the ICC Academy in Dubai.

It was the UAE’s first win, in the final match of a tri-nations series that also included Ireland, and a morale-boosting way for them to sign off before heading to Africa to continue their pursuit of a place at next year’s World Cup.

They play in the World Cricket League Division 2 in Namibia next month, and hope to make it through to play in the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe in March.

Rameez’s effort in the pursuit of 300 to beat Scotland suggests they will travel with great optimism.

His 121 not out is the second-highest ODI score ever by a UAE batsman, behind the 132 not out made by his mentor – and now UAE selector – Khurram Khan against Afghanistan on the same ground in 2014.

“Back in the [early] days, my aim was to be the next Khurram Khan, and hopefully this shows I am working towards that – or maybe better,” Rameez said.

“It feels amazing, not just to get a maiden hundred. This was the last game in this tri-series, and we were chasing 300. To do that by playing an innings like that, that is when you feel really good about it.”

When he reached three figures, Rameez neglected the traditional method of celebrating a milestone, of raising his bat, opting to point to it instead.

It was a message for the team’s coach, Dougie Brown, who had given a new bat to UAE batsman Adnan Mufti in recognition of him making his own maiden first-class century last year.

Rameez’s signal meant the coach had to repeat the gesture for him now.

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“As soon as I scored a hundred, I pointed the bat to him and said: ‘You owe me one’,” Rameez said.

Coincidentally, Rameez was playing for the UAE, as a 19-year-old newcomer, when Brown played his last first-class match, for Scotland against the national team in Sharjah in 2007.

Now 30, Rameez is playing his best cricket to date for the national team, and he is grateful for the impact Brown has made on his game.

“When Dougie came in, he saw me as a very aggressive batsman, who relied on scoring boundaries,” said Rameez, whose ODI average of 47.7 is the highest of any UAE batsman in history.

“That is something he has changed about me. I used to prefer scoring runs on the off-side and straight, but he has opened my game to the leg-side, so it is easier rotating the strike. We have been working on that.”

Brown was firm in his belief that that four ODIs the UAE have played in the past two weeks, as well as two 50-over practice matches against Afghanistan, were mainly preparation for the tour to Namibia.

UAE captain Rohan Mustafa, left, took two Scotland wickets on Tuesday. Chris Whiteoak / The National
UAE captain Rohan Mustafa, left, took two Scotland wickets on Tuesday. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The national team won two and lost four of those matches, but the coach was delighted by the way they signed off ahead of the challenges to come.

“It was a fantastic chase,” Brown said. “OK, so it was a good pitch, but you still need to get guys facing 100 balls, and you still need partnerships.

“The tempo of the chase was outstanding. Rameez thoroughly deserved his first ODI hundred, but I though he was really well supported as well.

“Ashfaq Ahmed [who made 92] deserved a hundred, and should have got a hundred and taken us deeper than he did, but the value of his innings shouldn’t be underestimated.

“And Adnan Mufti [38], who played exceptionally well with a very calm head and a clear plan as to how to chase down the total.”