x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE and Nepal content to share ACC Elite trophy in Sharjah

Rivals end up level as final is tied, giving UAE a fifth title, albeit a split one.

Khurram Khan of the UAE celebrates catching a shot of Gyanendra Malla of Nepal.
Khurram Khan of the UAE celebrates catching a shot of Gyanendra Malla of Nepal.

SHARJAH // Given the quality of craftsmanship which went in to making the trophy for the winners of the ACC's elite 50-over competition, it seems a pity it will have to be sawn in half now.

After 100 overs of the sort of fare which thrilled the sizeable crowd at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, the UAE and Nepal were told they could share the title after the scores were tied.

It was the UAE's fifth success in this competition and Nepal's first. So maybe Khurram Khan and his team will let their counterparts take the dhow trophy back to Kathmandu with them after all.

However, in most knockout competitions the home nation would have been given the victory outright as they lost fewer wickets.

"There must be something [to decide the outcome] - they can easily decide by wickets," said Aaqib Javed, the UAE's coach, who can still apply for his win bonus after his first tournament in charge of the national team.

"It is not harsh on either team this way. On such a minimal margin you can't tell one team you are the winner and the other you are the loser."

The UAE had their chances to win the game. Their old failings in the field reared up again at just the wrong time, as they missed run outs and shelled a vital catch in the last over.

However, if any side felt this was an opportunity missed, it should be Nepal. They had the game in their pockets twice.

First when they had the UAE 24 for three early on, then with the bat they were cruising at 96 without loss, then 165 for two chasing 242 to win.

Their demise betrayed a lack of big match experience, rather than a lack of talent, and Aaqib acknowledged his side were stunned by the quality of their opponents.

"People have been saying hard luck, but hard luck for what? We are winners," the coach said.

"I was really surprised to see the guts Nepal showed. The way they responded shocked us, and in the end I was really pleased by the way our team came back at the end."

Talking of comebacks, the UAE were largely indebted to Saqib Ali, who returned to form just at the right time.

The Abu Dhabi-based batsman has endured an uncharacteristically lean run of scores this year, with three ducks in his last sevens trips to the wicket, and only one half-century.

He timed it right to come good, however. Timing is his forte. He started cautiously after arriving at the crease with the UAE mired at 70 for four but finished like a express train. Off the final two deliveries of the UAE innings, he hit a six over long off, followed by four in the same region to seal his century.

"I always try to do my best for the team and luckily today I made runs," Saqib said.

"It was very hot so it was just a case of carrying on batting and trying to last through the innings.

"I just tried to get the maximum runs that I could at the end and luckily that meant getting a hundred as well. Nepal are playing really super cricket, and we were a little bit surprised."

While Saqib earned the match award for his century, Paras Khadka, Nepal's talisman, was named the player of the tournament.

The all-rounder is the darling of the Nepalese supporters. His appearance at the wicket yesterday attracted the sort of booming welcome which this ground usually reserves for Shahid Afridi and no one else.

When he departed, after holing out to long on off the bowling of Ahmed Raza, it might have cost his side their share of the title. He was fortunate the tail battled back as well as they did.

"Both teams played well. They didn't give up till the end and we didn't give up till the end. So in the end you can say that joint winners is a fair enough result."

For Pubudu Dassanayake, the coach, a part share in a trophy was a good way to end his first year in charge of cricket in Nepal. The Himalayan nation have been seen as a coming force in Asian cricket for years, and this is the clearest sign yet that they are making good on the forecasts.

"Our guys played very good cricket, but because of a lack of experience we ended up joint champs," the coach said.

"We were doing well but we gave a little chance to UAE and they grabbed it. At the end of the day, it is a first trophy for Nepal."

pradley@thenational.ae

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