x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Hosts spin a web over USA

Shadeep Silva and Fayyaz Ahmed help UAE score a morale-boosting victory in a warmup clash of the two wildcards for the World Twenty20 qualifier.

SHARJAH // Khurram Khan guided the UAE to a five wicket victory over the USA as the final pieces of the national team's jigsaw began to fall into place ahead of next week's World Twenty20 qualifier. Khurram's team begin their bid for a place at the showpiece event, to be staged in the Caribbean starting at the end of April, when they meet Kenya in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. The UAE and their opponents here are the two wildcard entries in a competition which also involves the best six nations outside of the Test sphere. As the lowest ranking sides, they are regarded as outsiders to take one of the two qualifying berths on offer, yet the UAE will have derived much encouragement from their win. The USA team have one player, Lennox Cush, who was part of the Stanford Superstars side who beat England in the richest ever Twenty20 match, and a host of other big hitters also in tow.

They set off at a rare rate here, suggesting they should not be written off when the qualifier begins, but as soon as the UAE's canny spinners began their work, victory seemed a given. The match provided some valuable match practice for the two players who have been summoned into the squad to cover for injuries. The national team's qualification hopes received couple of setbacks when the all-rounders, Amjad Javed and Mohammed Tauqir, bowed out with hand injuries. Tauqir, the side's injured vice-captain, cut a frustrated figure on the boundary rope here. He has at least had the dressing removed from the hand he broke playing in a domestic club match in Al Dhaid, but he will be a conspicuous absentee in the tournament. Their withdrawal from the squad has provided belated chances for Shadeep Silva and Awais Alam, an Abu Dhabi-based pace-bowler who was making his international bow here. Silva, who was a fixture in the national team before the emergence of Fayyaz Ahmed last year, gave an immediate reminder about his merits.

The Sri Lankan left-arm spinner is a miser in one-day cricket, and conceded just 13 runs from his four overs on his return to the side. He struck up an immediate rapport with Fayyaz, considered the No 1 spinner in the side and who picked up four for 23. The UAE appeared to be cruising to their victory target of 135 when Mohammed Iqbal was at the wicket. The opener showed no ill effects from the blow he suffered to his thumb against Uganda the previous week, as he blazed his way to 43 in no time. He hit three big sixes, including one into the road outside Sharjah Stadium, before perishing while unwisely attempting a quick single. It was then left to his club mate Khurram to take his side to the brink of victory. He went for 26 with the winning line in sight. The in-form Naeemuddin Aslam completed the due honours. pradley@thenational.ae