After retaining ODI status following tours of Namibia and Zimbabwe, UAE win tournament in Kuwait to keep World Twenty20 dream hopes alive
UAE cricket stars proud of progress after four hectic months even as Asia Cup qualification next target
The UAE are set for a break after four months of globetrotting that saw them first lurch to the brink of ruin, before going on to claim two trophies and safeguard the immediate financial future of the game here.
The World Twenty20 Asian Western Regional Qualifier title, won via a resounding nine-wicket success over Qatar in Kuwait on Friday, brought an end to a hectic spell for the team.
It was a triumphant conclusion to a run of rich success. By way of Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kuwait, the UAE have won two titles, retained one-day international status, and beaten a Test-playing nation for the first time.
All of which seemed highly unlikely when they lost two of their first three matches in the World Cricket League Division 2 in Namibia in February.
That left them on the edge of relegation to the third tier of international cricket, which would have all but spelt the end for the professional game here.
“In the past four months we have done really well,” UAE captain Rohan Mustafa said. “It was a great achievement to win Division 2 from nowhere. We were nearly knocked out, and then we won that tournament.
“Even Zimbabwe [the World Cup Qualifier] was a great tournament, as UAE won for the first time against a Test nation [when they beat the hosts in Harare]. The performance was really good.
“Then coming to Kuwait, we knew the teams were not as good, but that there is pressure when you play against teams like that.
“They have nothing to lose, and you know that if you lose against them, everybody will be talking about you. We did really well. We are proud of our performance.”
All that was missing from the list of accomplishments so far in 2018 was World Cup qualification. That went the way of Afghanistan and West Indies instead, and UAE coach Dougie Brown reasoned it was always likely to be a tall task.
“It has been a really good few months, and I guess the only thing missing has been World Cup qualification,” Brown said.
“I think we can say that was always going to be difficult to qualify given the circumstances of there only being two teams [to go through to England next year]. If we had gone back four years, we would have qualified handsomely.
“Unfortunately on this occasion it was not to be, but everything else is going really nicely.”
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The next stamp in the collective UAE cricket passport is likely to be Malaysia in August. The incentive on offer there will be significant, too: a place in September’s Asia Cup on home soil, where they would play against the likes of India and Pakistan.
Their exploits in Kuwait point to a team in good working order. They won all six matches. Mustafa, who was named player of the tournament after finishing top of the run charts and third in wickets, won two match awards. But there were four others in the UAE line up to earn one as well, suggesting the load is being spread widely.
“This week could have been slightly problematic after Zimbabwe, coming back to a more low-key tournament,” Brown said.
“You have to come to these tournaments and do the business. We have played on some fairly interesting pitches, and it would have been very easy after Zimbabwe to go through the motions, turn up and expect to win.
“We didn’t. We did the hard work, and I think we thoroughly deserved the six wins, with a very convincing win in the final.
“What is testament to us as a team is that we have had five different man-of-the-match winners – and realistically that should have been six.
“It shows we are not reliant on any one player at any stage. Anybody can win us a game."