x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

UAE cricketers stand up to be counted

Saqib and Amjad knocks do the damage as the UAE coach, Kabir Khan, hails the performances of all his squad as Hong Kong are beaten by 114 runs.

Saqib Ali's knock came at a time when the UAE's chips were down yesterday.
Saqib Ali's knock came at a time when the UAE's chips were down yesterday.

DUBAI // In three games of the International Cricket Council's (ICC) World Cricket League Division Two, the UAE have found different players to stand up for the side and guide them through difficult times.

In the first match, it was Khurram Khan, the captain, who scored an invaluable unbeaten 54 to guide the team to thrilling one-wicket win over Namibia. Ahmed Raza was a spirited ally, scoring 20 in a 33-run partnership for the final wicket.

Against Papua New Guinea, Shaiman Anwar put his hand up and his head down to score his maiden century, which laid the foundation for the UAE's 114-run win.

Yesterday, with the chips down against Hong Kong, Saqib Ali scored a determined 68, batting with five different partners, to help the UAE to 227 for nine. Amjad Ali (69) had earlier given them a sound start, scoring 45 of the first 57 runs on the board.

Shadeep Silva then bagged four wickets for 17 runs and Arshad Ali took two for 30 as Hong Kong were bowled out for 208 despite a brilliant innings of 81 from Mark Chapman and Irfan Ahmed's 36 down the order.

The win, the UAE's third in as many games, virtually assures them a place in Friday's final and Kabir Khan, the coach, was a happy man, ticking the second box on his list of objectives for the tournament.

"The first objective basically was to be in the top four ... to be in the development fund because we did not want to lose I don't know how much money," Kabir said.

"The second part was obviously to be in the final, to be in the top two because at the start we thought the top two will go to the Intercontinental Cup.

"But whether they go to the I-Cup or they don't, we still want to be there."

Teams finishing in the top four of this tournament will receive dedicated ICC High Performance Grants, while two teams, as determined by the ICC Development Committee, will get a ticket to the eight-team Intercontinental Cup and compete against Afghanistan, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands and Scotland.

Kabir is hoping the UAE will get the nod, given the performances from the team.

"When I came here first, I knew there were a few who were the key players, and I don't like that in a team," Kabir said. "I like everybody to be a key player and that's what has been proven in the last three games.

"You can see in every game, someone is coming and performing. It's not about the old star boys. It's not like that.

"In bowling, batting, fielding ... everybody is putting their hand up. They want to contribute and that's how cricket is run anyway."

Silva has, obviously, been one of the more outstanding performers and his four wickets yesterday took his tally to eight; Arshad Ali, who has struggled with the bat, has compensated with eight wickets as well.

"I am really happy because we won the match," Silva said. "It was a good, tight game. In the last two matches also, I bowled well and I hope I can continue for the remaining games.

"We have been training for this tournament for the last three months and we want to finish on a high."

Kabir is confident his team can do that. Hong Kong had defeated the UAE when they met last time, in the ACC Trophy, and they came close to repeating that success again. The UAE, however, prevailed and that is the reason for Kabir's optimism.

"The pleasing thing is they are winning tough games," Kabir said. "In the past, they used to win easy games, but whenever it used to come to the tougher side, they used to lose it, and they used to lose faith in their team.

"Now they have faith in their team, they have got faith in their bowling and batting. In three games, we batted well in the first - we fought till the last ball in batting. Here, we fought again until the last ball, in bowling this time.

It shows the great change in the team, that they are mentally prepared for pressure. Thanks to our cricket board because we have been working hard for the last two months and I have been giving them very serious, very tough and under-pressure match scenarios.

"They are getting used to it, which is good."

In the other matches yesterday, Namibia cruised to a comfortable eight-wicket win after bowling Papua New Guinea out for 92. Uganda were also emphatic in a 74-run win over Bermuda, posting 249 for seven before dismissing their opponents in 47 overs.

arizvi@thenational.ae