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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

UAE ready and willing to host World Cup Qualifier should Zimbabwe unrest affect original plans

On the pitch, the national team registered a 77-run win over Zimbabwe A at the  ICC Academy on Thursday night.

Chirag Suri was one of four UAE players to score a half century in the win over Zimbabwe A at the ICC Academy. Pawan Singh / The National
Chirag Suri was one of four UAE players to score a half century in the win over Zimbabwe A at the ICC Academy. Pawan Singh / The National

UAE cricket bosses say the country would be ready to stage the World Cup Qualifier in March if the ICC move the tournament from Zimbabwe.

It was announced last month that the competition to decide the final two teams for the 2019 World Cup would be played in Zimbabwe.

The Emirates Cricket Board had previously been sounded out about staging the 10-team event.

However, a clash with the dates of the 2018 Pakistan Super League season meant the availability of all the stadia could not be assured.

Ireland and Scotland had also been considered to host the qualifier next summer, before the ICC eventually settled on Zimbabwe in March.

It is unclear what the effects this week’s political unrest will have in Zimbabwe. President Mugabe was confined to his residence in Harare on Wednesday by the army, after a military coup.

There is no suggestion as yet the qualifier will be relocated, but the ICC are monitoring the situation. Countries have opted out of touring Zimbabwe for world cricket events in the past at times of social and political unrest.

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Will Kitchen, the general manager at the ICC Academy in Dubai, who oversees elite cricket in this country, said UAE would be willing to help out if required.

“If at any point there is an opportunity for us to host international cricket, and assuming there is a willingness and need to, we would love to,” Kitchen said.

“That is what these venues were built for, and we would take that opportunity, assuming that was what was required.”

Ashfaq Ahmed in action on his way to his 65-run innings. Pawan Singh / The National
Ashfaq Ahmed in action on his way to his 65-run innings. Pawan Singh / The National

The 2009 qualifier had been scheduled to take place in the UAE. However, delays in the construction of Dubai Sports City meant it was eventually moved to South Africa.

In that tournament, the national team missed out both on qualification for the 2011 subcontinent World Cup, as well as the funding boost that comes with full one-day international status.

Eight years on, the Emirates now boasts enviable facilities, with seven ICC-approved, floodlit venues across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

With Test sides West Indies and Zimbabwe playing, plus soon-to-be Test nations Afghanistan and Ireland also involved, the qualifier will have the highest calibre field in its history.

The UAE’s participation is dependent on whether they qualify as one of the top two teams in the six-team World Cricket League Division 2 in Namibia in February.

Ashfaq Ahmed and Chirag Suri run between the wicketsi. Pawan Singh / The National
Ashfaq Ahmed and Chirag Suri run between the wicketsi. Pawan Singh / The National

The national team continued their preparations for that competition as they beat Zimbabwe A by 77 runs at the ICC Academy on Thursday night. That extended their record in the series to 4-0 with just Saturday’s final match to play.

Yet again there was no single outstanding performer in the game for the home team. Four UAE batsmen made half-centuries as they amassed 283-5 from their 50 overs: Chirag Suri (58), Ashfaq Ahmed (65), Ghulam Shabber (65 not out) and Mohammed Boota (51).

Zahoor Khan took five wickets as Zimbabwe were bowled out for 206 in the 44th over.

For both Ashfaq and Boota, it was a second half century in their first two matches in UAE colours. Mohammed Asaf, another playing his second game, took two wickets.

The performances of the newcomers will have provided great encouragement for Dougie Brown and his coaching staff, as they try to increase competition for places for the challenges ahead this winter.

“What we have tried to do by increasing the size of the player pool is to create some healthy competition,” Brown, the UAE coach, said.

“We have worked unbelievably hard to try to create the right type of environment. We want to make sure we support each other and play as a very strong team.”

UAE v Zimbabwe A

Results
Match 1 – UAE won by 4 wickets
Match 2 – UAE won by 5 wickets
Match 3 – UAE won by 25 runs
Match 4 – UAE won by 77 runs

Fixture
Match 5, Saturday, 9.30am start, ICC Academy, Dubai

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