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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

UAE take on Oman with chance of making 2019 World Cup Qualifier looking increasingly slim

Only one Arabian Gulf nation can reach 2019 World Cup Qualifier, but both sides under pressure to win on Monday following defeats on Sunday, writes Paul Radley from Namibia

Oman have had an up and down tournament in Namibia, but they still have a chance to make the stage of qualifying. Courtesy of Johan Jooste
Oman have had an up and down tournament in Namibia, but they still have a chance to make the stage of qualifying. Courtesy of Johan Jooste

When the six teams assembled in Namibia for the World Cricket League Division 2 last week, hope abounded that two representatives from the Arabian Gulf might advance to the next phase of qualifying.

But after Sunday’s round of matches, neither UAE nor Oman can be overly hopeful of progressing to play for a place at next year’s World Cup, via the qualifying event in Zimbabwe in March.

One could possibly make it from here, but not both. The two sides meet on Monday at Affies Park in Windhoek, with each aiming to avenge potentially terminal defeats a day earlier.

While the UAE were beaten by Nepal, across the city Oman managed to throw away a powerful position, as they ended up losing to hosts Namibia by two wickets, with two balls remaining.

Oman had the match in their grasp. Having posted 165, they had Namibia teetering on the brink at 65-7, before a remarkable stand worth 92 between Gerhard Erasmus and JJ Smit took the home side to victory.

If they do fail to finish in the top two in this event, it will end the finest run in this cycle of the World Cricket League.

Oman were promoted all the way from Division 5 to this point. During the same period they qualified for a debut appearance at a World Twenty20 – at the UAE’s expense – in India in 2016.

“It is very important,” Sultan Ahmed, Oman’s captain, said of how they fare in Namibia. “For the past two and a half years we have played very good cricket. We played at the T20 World Cup, and we have been on a journey from Division 5 to 2.

“This tournament matters because two teams qualify for the World Cup Qualifier, but also being in Division 2 means a lot of cricket will come our way.”

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Unlike the UAE, who introduced professional contracts for their players 18 months ago, the Oman players remain part-timers.

“Our first priority is to work, then play cricket,” said Ahmed, who works as a sales coordinator for a multi-national company in Muscat.

“We have good infrastructure in the domestic season, with 45 to 50 teams in Division A to C and D Divisions. That is why our performances have been improving day by day.

“If you perform well, you deserve that publicity. Honestly speaking, we have worked very hard to come to this level.

“Hats off the boys, and the management to initiate all the things that have brought us here.”