Left-arm spinner all praise for home team Nepal who set up title clash with Afghanistan.
UAE captain Ahmed Raza takes positives from ACC Twenty20 Cup defeat
The UAE's winning run came to an end following a comprehensive six-wicket defeat to Nepal in the Asian Cricket Council Twenty20 Cup semi-finals at Kirtipur yesterday.
Ahmed Raza's side went into the game having won four in a row, but were unable to replicate that kind of form against a home team constantly spurred on by the 15,000 followers who had converged on the Tribhuvan University International Cricket grounds.
Nepal will next face Afghanistan – who earlier beat Hong Kong by seven wickets – in the final today.
The call at the toss was the probably the only thing the UAE got right, with Raza opting to bat first.
From there it was a downward spiral for the Emirates side, who limped to 133 for nine in their 20 overs. Nepal chased down the total with five balls to spare.
Raza, though, showed grace in defeat.
"It was just a bad day for us, but let's not take anything away from the way Nepal played," the 24 year old said. "They were more disciplined and played good cricket to defeat us."
Indeed, the Nepal attack bowled with great restraint, keeping it tight with all the UAE batsmen - barring Swapnil Patil (37) and Mohammad Azam (24 not out) - struggling to put runs on the board at a fast clip.
The hosts, on the other hand, found an anchorman in the form of Pradeep Airee, who top-scored with 58 and featured in two valuable partnerships, putting on 61 off 57 balls for the first wicket with Subash Khakural (22) and 39 with Gyanendra Malla (20).
Raza, a left-arm spinner, provided the vital break with the first delivery of his last over when he had Malla caught by Amjad Ali at extra cover for the second wicket to fall at 100 in the 16th over.
Nepal needed a further 24 off 18 balls with eight wickets in hand when Fayyaz Ahmed, another slow left-armer, struck a double blow to give the UAE some hope.
Fayyaz got rid of Airee, who lost his balance and was stumped by Abdul Shakoor, before Basanta Regmi was caught off a top edge by substitute fielder Adil Reyal at backward point in the very next delivery.
Nepal eventually kept their cool to win, but the UAE will rue the four catches they dropped, apart from their sloppiness in the field that gave away runs.
But Raza was optimistic about his team's future when he said: "We can still take a lot of positives from this competition. We won four out of five and still have a play-off for third place against Hong Kong [today], which we would like to win, and return on a high.
"We couldn't put up a good score on the board. Still we could have defended it. We tried and our bowlers did well to take the game to the last over."
He also refused to point fingers at any of the players. "We need to take the blame collectively as a team. It was just one bad day for us," he said.
The good news for the UAE, however, is their exit does not have a bearing on their ambition to play at the ICC World Twenty20 qualifying tournament in November.
As hosts of the competition, they already have qualified to play alongside Afghanistan.
"This was a good lesson for us to learn from the mistakes and of course be sharper and more competitive when we play in the ICC World T20 qualifiers," Raza said.
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