x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Khan’s century takes UAE to top of Super Six table with win over Papua New Guinea

Captain Khurram Khan scored 138 and UAE went to the top of the Super Six table after three matches at the Cricket World Cup Qualifier on Sunday with a 150-run win to deal Papua New Guinea their first loss.

Khurram Khan struck for 138 in UAE's victory over Papua New Guinea, helping them reach the top of the Super Six table. Satish Kumar / The National
Khurram Khan struck for 138 in UAE's victory over Papua New Guinea, helping them reach the top of the Super Six table. Satish Kumar / The National

Given this is almost certainly his final shot at playing at a World Cup, it is tempting to suggest Khurram Khan is producing his best form now he is in last chance saloon.

However, that would totally the neglect the past decade of service for the most consistently successful cricketer in the history of the sport in this country.

If any other UAE sportsman has been quite as reliably excellent in that time as the captain of the national cricket team, then they do not readily spring to mind.

The veteran allrounder has dragged the UAE to the verge of World Cup qualification in New Zealand with three man of the match performances in the space of five matches so far.

He earned yesterday’s award for an innings of 138 which helped his side reach 280 against Papua New Guinea, who had been the only unbeaten side in the 10 team qualifier.

He was the only player to pass 50 in the match, as the UAE clinched a 150 run victory in New Zealand which put them top of the group after the first match of the Super Six phase.

“For a man who is 42 years old, Khurram is in great nick,” said Mansoor Pasha, the manager of the UAE tour party in New Zealand.

“You can visibly see he really enjoys his cricket. We think history will be made by this team, there is a different mood about this UAE side.”

By history, Pasha is referring to the fact it would be just the second time the UAE have qualified for a World Cup if they do take one of the two places on offer for Australia and New Zealand next year.

They led the competition on run-rate ahead of PNG overnight, as they awaited the result of Scotland against Namibia, which had been forced to a reserve day because of rain.

After Khurram’s latest masterclass with the bat had allowed the national team to post a daunting total, the UAE were able to call on their new favourite weapon - namely, a pace attack.

While the continued excellence of Khurram is generally taken as a given, having a battery of seamers of any note is a complete novelty.

The national team have historically based their gameplan around spin-bowling, and yet their attack of four front-line pacers plus the part-time Rohan Mustafa have thrived in New Zealand.

Mohammed Naveed set them on the path to victory over PNG with a wicket off the first ball of the innings.

He ended with two, as did Kamran Shahzad and Manjula Guruge, while Amjad Javed, the airport cargo handler come swing bowler, took four.

“There has been a huge change in UAE cricket because we are playing five seamers at the moment,” said Aaqib Javed, the coach.

“Within those five seamers we have a lot of variety. Kamran is a genuine fast bowler, then we have Naveed, Manjula, Amjad Javed and Rohan bowling seamers. They are all doing well.

“I think we have a good bowling unit which can restrict any team on any given target.”