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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

UAE thrash top-ranked Kenya to make emphatic start in bid to reach World Cup Qualifier

A 218-run victory in Namibia gets the national side off the mark in the World Cricket League Division 2

The UAE were comfortable winners over Kenya in their World Cricket League Division 2 opener in Namibia on Thursday. Courtesy Joahn Jooste
The UAE were comfortable winners over Kenya in their World Cricket League Division 2 opener in Namibia on Thursday. Courtesy Joahn Jooste

The UAE made the perfect start to their bid to reach the World Cup Qualifier, as they thrashed Kenya – and beat the weather – in Windhoek, Namibia on Thursday.

The opening match of World Cricket League Division 2 pitted the top two ranked sides in the competition against each other. The UAE made a joke of being the lesser-ranked of them.

Having amassed 309-8 in a punishing display with the bat, they fired out the Kenyans for 91 with the ball, to win by 218 runs.

The only fear they had at any point in proceedings was that rain might deprive them a richly-merited win. As storm-clouds banked above, Rohan Mustafa, the captain, even floated the idea that the UAE might forego the mandatory first drinks break, in order to ensure they got 20 overs in before rain broke.

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Read more:

World Cricket League Division 2: Fixtures and team-by-team guide

Aim is clear for UAE – to qualify for the 2019 Cricket World Cup

Adnan Mufti returns to Namibia where he has pleasant memories

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The umpires rebuffed his enquiry, but it mattered for nought in the end, as the Kenyans were bowled out within 33 overs. Five minutes after Mustafa was handed the man of the match award, the clouds burst.

“Every team would want this kind of start,” said Mustafa, who won the match award for making 73 at the top of the order, as well as taking two wickets.

“The guys really played well. To make 309 on this wicket was a very good total, and the bowlers have been performing well for a long time now.”

An overnight thunderstorm was gratefully received by the residents of a city that has been struggling with the effects of the drought conditions that have been felt in much of southern Africa in recent months.

Still, batsmen starting their innings at 9.30am on game day might have been dubious about the merits of the added moisture. Kenya won the toss and opted to bowl – the same ploy the UAE would have pursued, had the coin fallen their way.

No matter, though. The UAE’s openers made a blistering start. Ashfaq Ahmed, who has been a revelation at the top of the order since debuting at the end of last year, went to his half-century with an upper cut for six before the first drinks break.

With Windhoek being at an altitude of 5,600ft, and the air therefore thinner, the UAE’s batsmen found greater value for their power-hitting than they might otherwise do in Dubai.

Rugby is also played at Wanderers, this multi-sports facility in the south of Namibia’s capital city. Two huge pulled sixes by Ashfaq in the opening power play ended up past where the scrum-machines are stored.

He had set the tone for the others to follow. According to Dougie Brown, the coach, it was just the statement of intent he wanted from his players, at the start of five crucial matches for the national team.

“It is the perfect way to start, but playing tournament cricket is not about one performance,” Brown said. “It is about piecing together four or five performances. We spoke today about getting out of the blocks really well, and we did just that.

“Credit to Ashfaq and Rohan, the way they played just put a massive marker down. Quite often the first game can be a nervy affair, but they made it much less nervy for the team because they stamped their authority on the game.”

After Ashfaq and Mustafa shared 133 in 17 overs, the UAE were well set to pass 300. They did so, thanks to 63 from Rameez Shahzad – his fourth score of more than 50 in his past five matches – and a quick-fire 46 by Mohammed Usman.

Kenya were derailed in reply, first by the excellence of Mohammed Naveed and Amir Hayat with the new ball, then Ahmed Raza, Mustafa and Zahoor Khan, who all took two wickets each.

“Kenya are ranked No 1 in this tournament,” Brown said. “We haven’t played them for 18 months, and it was really important we used the good weather to play the sort of cricket we have been rehearsing to play.”