UAE batter Iran to record lowest score in a completed T20I innings
Robin Singh's reign off to winning start with 10-wicket win in Western Region Asia Cup Qualifier qualifying
UAE arrived in Oman for the first phase of Asia Cup qualifying this week with a brand new coach, two new teenage players, and a side still being overhauled after months of turmoil in the game here.
For their first match in the Western Region Asia Cup Qualifier, they handed out T20 international debuts to three players – Basil Hameed, Alishan Sharafu, and Vriitya Aravind.
Even their opposition, Iran, were playing their first official match in the format, since all sides were afforded T20I status last year.
And yet it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same, as Rohan Mustafa continues to dominate.
Up until last October, Mustafa was the youngest regular player in the national team. Now, given the vast change of personnel, he ranks among its most senior.
The former captain has played more limited-overs internationals than anyone else in the UAE squad for this series.
After the recent influx of youth within the national team set up – there are four teenagers in all in the squad in Oman – Mustafa feels an added responsibility to set an example.
He showed that by leading the way in rampant display at Al Amerat, as UAE opened a qualifying campaign that they hope could conclude with an appearance in a home Asia Cup with a crushing win.
They beat their novice opposition by 10 wickets, with 14-and-a-half overs to spare, having restricted Iran to the lowest T20I score in a completed 20-over innings.
Mustafa himself took 2-6 as Iran were limited to 61-8 from their allocation. He then hit 41 not out as he and Chirag Suri chased the target within five-and-a-half overs.
It meant Mustafa earned a second man-of-the-match award in his past three matches – at the same venue, too, after excelling in the Cricket World Cup League two in Oman last month.
“Being a senior player, I am always talking to them, as I realise we have some inexperienced young players,” Mustafa said.
“I feel like it is our job to show they what we have to do when we are under pressure, and when the team needs you to stay at the wicket, to do that.
“We do have the role of senior players now, and we have to play like that.”
The national team face Kuwait on Monday, with Saudi Arabia in their final pool match a day later.
The tournament concludes with semi-finals and then Thursday’s final. The two sides making it to the last match qualifying for a four-team competition in Malaysia in the summer, the winner of which will play at the Asia Cup T20.
Mustafa is happy with how the campaign has started.
“If you get out cheaply to Iran, the pressure can be on you in the upcoming matches,” said Mustafa, who hit 22 runs in the fifth over to take UAE to the brink of the win.
“The plan was not to give away my wicket. I have been in form, and I scored runs in the past couple of practice matches, too.
"I want to carry on the form and help UAE win the tournament, Inshallah.”
Meanwhile, Oman set down a marker on the opening day of the competition as they thrashed Bahrain by eight wickets.
The host nation began the event with spirits soaring, after returning from Nepal in the CWCL2 with four wins.
Even in the absence of their in-form captain Zeeshan Maqsood and his deputy Aqib Ilyas, they made light work of Bahrain.
Khawar Ali and Bilal Khan took seven wickets between them as they fired out their opposition for 83, which they chased within 14 overs.
Updated: February 23, 2020 04:01 PM