x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Forcing a draw with Ireland shows UAE cricket better but still has room for improvement

UAE captain Khurram Khan says a draw was the best result the UAE could fight for after two days, stating 'you can either save the match or you lose the match'. The UAE did the former against Ireland.

Ireland captain William Porterfield struck an unbeaten 101 on Friday in their ICC Intercontinental Cup match at Sharjah Cricket Stadium against the UAE, which ended in a draw.
Ireland captain William Porterfield struck an unbeaten 101 on Friday in their ICC Intercontinental Cup match at Sharjah Cricket Stadium against the UAE, which ended in a draw.

DUBAI // When Ahmed Raza found the inside edge of Andrew White's bat, in the first over post-tea on Friday, he immediately crossed his wrist and broke into an impromptu jig, giving a rendition of PSY's Gangnam Style steps.

His teammates joined in as well and the celebrations continued for a bit.

The lanky left-arm spinner had certainly earned that moment. Getting a wicket on a sleepy Sharjah Stadium track was indeed an achievement.

Across four days, the bowlers managed only 17 wickets (one run out and an injury retirement not going into their stats) and 1,137 runs were scored, with four batsmen getting centuries and four others getting 80-plus scores.

The possibility of a result had been ruled out as early as the second day after Ireland had batted most of the first six sessions to post 589 for seven on the board, and the game meandered to its inevitable finish - a draw, with the visitors taking six points for their first innings lead to stay at the top of the Intercontinental Cup standings with 73 points.

The UAE are fifth with 30 points, behind Afghanistan (64), Scotland (46) and Namibia (43).

"Once a team plays for two days, it's straightforward," UAE captain Khurram Khan said. "You either have to save the match or you lose the match. So we fought back to save the match and I don't think there was any other result possible. The match was decided after those two days. I am very happy with the guys. They survived two days in the heat. They fielded very well, they showed their fitness. So I am happy."

Aaqib Javed, the UAE coach, was happy as well, but the former Pakistan bowling ace said his team could have done slightly better.

He pointed to the middle-order collapse on the third day after Khurram (115) and Arshad Ali (95) had added 187 runs for the second wicket. The hosts lost five wickets for 38 runs.

"But still I think it's a good learning experience, because we had five debuts," he said. "It is going to be difficult for teams like the UAE, because if you compare Ireland and the UAE, they have all county players. They are used to this, the routines and everything. So I think that was the difference. Still, I believe we gave them a good, tough fight. As a coach, I am quite happy with the progress."

Ireland, who had two centurions in the first innings, got another in the second when William Porterfield warmed up for the two upcoming World Cricket League Championship 50-over matches with a chanceless, unbeaten 101.

"It was nice to spend some time in the middle in both innings," said Porterfield, who will take over as the Ireland captain for the one-dayers. "Would have been nice to get a hundred in the first innings [82], but it didn't happen. So it's nice to get over the line in this innings."

Keeping in mind the two upcoming games, the Ireland coach Phil Simmons was pleased with the workout his batsmen got in the middle, especially since they have not played much over the past five months because of the winter back home.

"If we were playing on a different surface, we might have tried to put them back in and try to see what we can do to get close to winning the game," he said.

"But on a wicket like this, you cannot do that.

"So we are just happy that we got the points necessary for us to stay at the top of the league."



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