x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

With confidence still intact, UAE cricket team take their lumps against Ireland

After two long days in the field, the UAE trail Ireland by 533 runs with nine wickets remaining in the first innings, writes Paul Radley.

Ireland batsman Edmund Joyce, left, plays a shot during a ICC Intercontinental Cup match against UAE at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah yesterday. Satish Kumar / The National
Ireland batsman Edmund Joyce, left, plays a shot during a ICC Intercontinental Cup match against UAE at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah yesterday. Satish Kumar / The National

SHARJAH // There was a time, not so long ago, when two days spent bowling to the professionals of Ireland on this bowlers' graveyard in the heat of Sharjah might have sparked at least one minor row and perhaps the promise of an impending availability crisis within the UAE cricket team.

If this is what playing international cricket is like, then maybe the office is not such a bad place to be after all.

It is a tribute to the upbeat spirit Aaqib Javed has engendered in the national team at present, however, that they came off on Wednesday after a thankless two days in the field here as the best of buddies.

And, far more importantly, the national team have the genuine belief that saving this Intercontinental Cup tie against the table-topping side is well within their compass.

"To be honest I am proud of the guys," Khurram Khan, the UAE captain, said as his side closed 533 runs in arrears of the leading side at this level of international cricket.

"We are not used to playing more than 20 overs or 50 overs, but they survived two days with confidence intact.

"Everybody did a wonderful job. By the end they were chatting and laughing with each other and having fun: that is what cricket is about. Yes, we have tough days, but that is part of the game."

After two days of cricket at the UAE's oldest international cricket venue, the game has already become one where the quality of cricket is secondary to the statistics that are being racked up.

In posting 589 for the loss of just seven wickets Ireland notched up their highest international score in 158 years of trying.

The UAE's batsmen were granted their go after 163 overs of hard labour in the field.

Ahmed Raza, the vice captain, will have been thankful for the recent fitness kick he has been on, given that he sent down 46 of those overs on his own.

Ireland had two centurions, Ed Joyce and Niall O'Brien, while five of them in all passed 50.

So easy was the going for batsmen, they might even have gone on to try for a nice round thousand, as Kevin O'Brien was just getting warmed up when William Porterfield, the captain, called them in.

"It is good to get out there and bat in these friendly conditions and get a bit of sun on our backs," said Niall O'Brien, Kevin's brother, who arrived in the country having played in the Bangladesh Premier League last month.

"In these kinds of conditions the big scores are there if you are willing to apply yourself and bat a long time and score hundreds.

"I've got a few hundreds in the UAE now down the years. It is a place I like to bat. It is a nice way to start my first-class season and I'll take this form and confidence into the county season."

Injuries stacking up for UAE

Given the nature of the pitch at Sharjah, Ireland said they were prepared for a war of attrition in this match against the UAE. The home side were already showing signs of collateral damage before the game even started and the problems have been exacerbated by the first two days.

Saqib Ali The senior batsman in the UAE set up has missed this series, and could be set for a long stint on the sidelines due to a bulging disk in his lower back. The former captain is back in Pakistan considering medical advice on whether to undergo surgery.

Haroon Iftikhar Named in the original squad for this Intercontinental Cup tie, but the Abu Dhabi-based player had to withdraw after he fractured his thumb in a car crash a little over a week ago. The left-handed batsman will be out for at least six weeks.

Saqib Shah Rewarded for fine form with the bat in the domestic game with a call up to the national team. However, his debut delight was short-lived as he injured a shoulder in a tumble on day 1, and spent Wednesday in his tracksuit and a sling.

Naeemuddin Aslam Iftikhar’s replacement in the squad is 12th man for this game and had only entered the fray as fielding substitute for Shah. Yet he also suffered in the field, straining the same shoulder that has kept him out for the past year.


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