Batsman was only playing because Ashfaq Ahmed failed a morning fitness test on his hamstring injury. The national team won by six wickets in Harare
World Cup Qualifier: Chirag Suri 'really, really happy' as unbeaten knock propels UAE to victory over Netherlands
Chirag Suri started the day not knowing whether he was even going to play. He ended it draped in the UAE flag, hugging virtually everybody at Harare Sports Club, including the dressing room attendant and the bus driver, having played the innings of his life.
The youngest member of the UAE squad, who was only playing because Ashfaq Ahmed failed a morning fitness test on his hamstring injury, hit the winning runs as the national team claimed a precious win in the World Cup Qualifier.
Suri’s innings of 78 not out was a masterpiece in self-restraint, an effort that belied the fact he is still only 23.
It took the national team to a six-wicket win over the Netherlands, in what either side might well have regarded as a play-off to make it to the Super Six stage, and continue their quest for a World Cup berth.
The UAE have won two matches from three. Netherlands have two losses. All of which means the Dutch need to beat Papua New Guinea and West Indies to match the UAE’s points total. The national team can render that meaningless anyway, if they beat Ireland on Monday in the final group match.
Suri, who dedicate his innings to his mother Gauri, for all her prayers for him and the team, said the win might be a vital one.
“I think it was a very, very invaluable game for us,” Suri said. “We know the magnitude of this win, so I am really, really happy I could contribute to the winning performance.”
When Suri went to the Indian Premier League last year, and lived among the stars for two months as a player for Gujarat Lions, the outlook for him was changed.
He did not play, but learnt much. The trip to Twenty20 cricket’s big show also meant that, from the outside at least, he was burdened by the expectation of being the UAE’s IPL kid.
In truth, he is still finding his way. Ashfaq has been a revelation at the top of order since getting his chance near the end of last year, which has meant Suri has had to wait patiently for a recall.
He looked promising on his return to the side against West Indies on Tuesday, but felt he missed out on the sort of score that makes people sit up and take note. He did not have to wait much longer to right that wrong.
“Things come together when you put in the hard work earlier on, and this was like that for me today,” Suri said.
“Whenever you get the opportunity, you want to cement your place in the side. Once you do that, you can play with more confidence and play your natural game. Luckily enough I got this opportunity.”
Netherlands were disappointed to have found this match was to be played on a pre-used wicket, supposing that would play into the hands of UAE’s ace spin-bowlers.
They at least got first use of it, but succumbed to the excellence of Rohan Mustafa, who was man of the match after taking his second five-wicket haul in ODIs.
The UAE team have lived on their nerves for most of the past month, and chasing 177 on a slow, worn pitch, was testing. They managed it, though, thanks to a fine unbroken 93-run stand between Suri and Mohammed Usman.
“Unfortunately our cricket brains weren’t switched on, we made mistakes and that enabled UAE back into the game,” Ryan Campbell, the Netherlands coach, said of his side, who were 52 for no loss at the start of the game.
“Their spinners operate very well, they did a really good job.”