UAE avoid Oman clash in semi-final of Asia Cup qualifying
Hosts finish third in their group and make a surprise shock exit from competition, as national team stumble to 12-run victory over Saudi Arabia and will now face Qatar
The UAE will face Qatar on Wednesday for a place in the next phase of Asia Cup qualifying, after a stunning afternoon in Al Amerat when World Cup-bound Oman crashed out.
The home side entered the Western Region T20 this week with spirits soaring.
They are top of the 50-over World Cup League Two table, following a cleansweep of four ODI wins in Nepal earlier this month.
They also have the 20-over World Cup in Australia to plan for in October, having qualified at the end of last year.
And yet a remarkable turn of events in the final afternoon of pool matches meant they were beaten into third in their pool by both Bahrain and Qatar.
Qatar had initially stolen the advantage in the group when they beat Oman on Monday.
Still, it was widely expected the hosts would advance through with them in second place.
Bahrain, though, beat Qatar by six wickets in the final pool match – and in such rapid time that they leapfrogged by their opposition and Oman to top the group on net run-rate.
Now, UAE will face Qatar in the last four, while Bahrain and Kuwait will playoff for the other place in the next phase of qualifying. That will be a four-team tournament in Malaysia in August.
Amid all the drama of the other group, the UAE have advanced through the competition relatively serenely.
They were the only team to win all three of their pool matches, but opener Chirag Suri insists they will have to improve if they are to progress.
The national team beat Saudi Arabia by 12 runs on Tuesday to clinch top spot in Group B, but were erratic in doing so.
Having made 51 a day earlier, Suri continued his fine form with 75, as UAE reached 138-3 midway through the 16th over.
From there, though, they lost seven wickets for 12 runs in 21 balls to fall to 150 all out with an over unused.
The fact Saudi got to within a couple of blows of a shock win was another sign of the improvements UAE need to make.
“We should have been more clinical with the quality we have,” Suri said. “We have to step up. We are doing things well, but we have to finish things well, too.
“We have been starting things off really nicely, but we have to try to be dominating. In such tournaments, if you let it slip, other teams will get on top as well.
“We have seen that anybody can beat anybody, so you can’t leave it rest assured for anyone. You have to do the job.
“When I was batting in the middle, maybe I should have made it to a hundred and finished the job myself.”
Only the two finalists in this week’s competition in Oman will make it to the next stage of the qualifying process.
The Asia Cup is an emotive tournament for the UAE side in particular.
Two years ago they missed out on the chance to appear in the 50-over version on home soil, after losing the final of the qualifying competition to Hong Kong, also in Malaysia.
Now it is possible they will have a second chance to play at the Asia Cup, this time in the T20 format, in their own backyard.
Pakistan have hosting rights for the competition, scheduled to be played in September this year, as a forerunner to the T20 World Cup in Australia a month later.
However, with India all but certain not to participate in a competition staged in Pakistan at this stage, it could be shifted to a neutral venue – most likely UAE.
The final side to play alongside India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan will come from the Asia Cup Qualifier in Malaysia in August.
That competition will involve the top two sides from the even in Oman, as well two out of another event involving Nepal, Malaysia, Hong Kong Singapore and Thailand.
As such, the semi-final on Wednesday is essentially the most important match of the first qualifying tournament.
Updated: February 25, 2020 05:38 PM