x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

UAE book place in ACC Trophy final

Khurram Khan hauled his side to a six-wicket win over Nepal and a place in cricket's ACC Trophy final.

The UAE team have booked their place in the final of the ACC Trophy on Sunday.
The UAE team have booked their place in the final of the ACC Trophy on Sunday.

Khurram Khan today hauled his UAE side to a six-wicket win over Nepal and a place in Sunday's ACC Trophy final at the Kinrara Oval in Malaysia. The triumph brings with it a lucrative place in the 2010 Asia Cup, where the store-keepers, police officers and university students that make up the Emirates side will be able to pit themselves against the continent's Test-playing elite again. It will be a third Asia Cup outing in succession for the UAE, and they will be joined there by their regular Trophy final rivals, Hong Kong, who beat Afghanistan in the other semi-final this afternoon.

The UAE will be bidding for their fifth straight title in this event on Sunday. Even though they are yet to fire on full power in this edition, they are still confident of more glory. Although a long way short of their best here today, they comfortably overpowered a Nepal side which won all four of their matches on their way to first place in Group B. Everything was looking easy for the defending champions at the halfway stage. Their experienced spinners were too good for the Nepalese batsmen, on a wicket that could not have been more perfectly suited to them had they sent a letter to the curator in advance setting out their desired specifications.

Shadeep Silva, a left-arm spinner who played in the same first-class side as Sanath Jayasuriya in Colombo before moving to Abu Dhabi six years ago, again made merry on a dusty, worn track. Shadeep was broken-hearted to lose his place in the side for the one match which meant the most to him - versus his native Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup last month. The way he has bowled since then suggests he is unwilling to sacrifice the shirt ever again.

He was the main threat as the Emirates defended a modest tally against Malaysia in their previous game at the Selangor Turf Club. He took three wickets that day, and added another two in 10 overs against Nepal, for the concession of just 22 runs. The Sri Lankan spinner was one of the key players when the UAE took the title the last time they were in Malaysia, on his first tour with the national team, two years ago. Three other stars of that triumph - the kingpin trio of Khurram, Arshad Ali and Mohammed Tauqir - were also to the fore with the ball against Nepal. Khurram, who started his third stint as the UAE's captain at the beginning of this tour, took 3-20, Arshad 2-22 and Tauqir 1-28. Nepal, who are the overwhelmingly dominant force in Asian age-group cricket, still cannot shake their semi-final hoodoo, and they looked overawed by facing the four-time champions.

When they batted, the Nepalese batsmen seemed to find manifold demons in the pitch. However, when it was the UAE's turn, Arshad quickly proved that patience and a straight bat were a perfect formula to counter any problems the surface presented. He advanced smoothly to 38, and the Emirates players would have been forgiven if their thoughts had already started to wander to Sunday's final. Even when Arshad fell, the holders were still well placed at 81-2. Then the customary middle-order jitters set in as Amjad Ali fell victim to one that kept low, and Saqib Ali continued his lean run by holing out on the mid-wicket fence. It was left to Khurram (42 not out) - the veteran of the side at 37 - and the Middlesex University, Dubai student Rameez Shahzad (31 not out) to guide their side through the tricky remaining overs. The skipper was afforded one crucial reprieve, when Sanjam Regmi grassed a simple chance with the score on 120-4 and Khurram on 17. That missed opportunity punctured Nepal's momentum, and took with it their chance of a place in the final, as well as the most sought-after prize, a place in the 2010 Asia Cup. @Email:pradley@thenational.ae