It’s not every day the UAE internationals get to rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in cricket and that too on their very home turf.
But that’s exactly what happened to 10 cricketers at the inaugural T10 League. Rameez Shahzad, Mohammad Naveed (Bengal Tigers), skipper Rohan Mustafa, Imran Haider (Kerala Kings), Shaiman Anwar, Zahoor Khan (Maratha Arabians), Amjad Javed, Saqlain Haider (Pakthoons), Shareef Asadullah and Ghulam Shabbir (Punjabi Legends) were all picked up by the team owners of the five franchises in November’s player draft.
The fact that so many were snapped up by the owners, whose franchises’ squads would include the likes of World T20 and Champions Trophy winners was no surprise. It was a rule implemented by the tournament organisers, making it compulsory for team owners to select two UAE cricketers in their squads.
Their selection at the time, would open the doors to showcase their talent on a more bigger stage in front of 15,000 fans at Sharjah Cricket Stadium and millions worldwide. It was something that the Emirates cricketers were chasing for, having proved their worth at Associate level.
Their time had come to make a name for themselves beyond the Associate-level sphere. But by the time Eoin Morgan was hoisting the trophy with his Kerala Kings’ team-mates late on Sunday night, only half of those got playing time under their belt over the four days.
Mustafa was named in the starting 11 for all five matches but with a squad boasting the likes of Morgan, Paul Stirling and Keiron Pollard, the opening batsman had to settle for number seven in the batting list. By the time he did come on with the bat, he faced just one delivery, knocking his only boundary and four runs of the tournament.
For pacer Mohammad Naveed, he was one of the standout players for the UAE, taking three wickets and scoring 11 runs in his four matches with Bengal Tigers, while Zahoor Khan, who played the same amount of games claiming one scalp.
Another person who made four appearances for his side was wicket-keeper Saqlain Haider but with the format favouring the batsmen, he could only show his handy work behind the stumps with one catch.
You counted us out, but we fought back like a wounded tiger!
— BengalTigers_T10 (@BengalTigersUAE) December 15, 2017
While those players will cherish those memories of sharing the same dressing room and training with the elite stars, they will be disappointed to have not been given more opportunities to prove their worth.
As Mustafa put it, he might well have got a winning medal from the tournament but with the 13 matches crammed in four days, the schedule did them no favours.
“To be honest, we didn’t get much time to train with the team captains and they don’t know much about us,” he lamented.
The tournament organisers will have understood their frustrations and disappointment so if plans do materialize of having four UAE players in a squad with two named in the starting 11 in the next edition, then they deserve a lot credit for helping Emirates cricket move forward.
It’s something that will aid the players because there is a lot of talent in the national team, who have enjoyed one of their most successful years of late. In 31 matches, they have won 22 including a 2-1 serie 50-over win over Netherlands in Amsterdam.
Mustafa has certainly risen to the occasion since being appointed the new skipper in February with one of his highlights coming in April when he became the third cricketer to score a century and a five-for in ODI cricket against Papua New Guinea.
At 38, Anwar has shown he still has plenty left in the tank by becoming the first UAE player to score a T20I century, while spinner Ahmed Raza, who was not picked in T10 League, finished as the top wicket-taker in the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup with 32 scalps.
That’s not to mention Chirag Suri, who became the first Emirates cricketer to be bought in an IPL auction when he was sold to Gujarat Lions in February.
The T10 League has shown it can capture imaginations and put players in the spotlight. Paul Stirling’s blistering half-century in the final is proof of that and could well open the doors to other lucrative leagues. There’s no reason why it can’t happen to the UAE internationals.
Mustafa’s record this year with the bat has proved he was more than capable of scoring big runs as an opener for Kerala. The team captains and coaches just need to realize their potential and give them a chance.
Australia were confident rain would not deny them the Ashes despite play being abandoned early on the fourth day of the third Test against England in Perth on Sunday.
The home side lead the five-Test series 2-0 and a win in the last-ever Ashes Test to be played at the WACA Ground would see them regain the urn, and at stumps on the fourth day they could smell victory despite the showers sweeping across Perth and predicted to continue into the final day’s play.
Trailing by 259 runs in the first innings after Australia declared at 662 for nine, England were 132 for four when stumps was called early after a rain-interrupted final session, with Dawid Malan on 28 and Jonny Bairstow on 14, still behind by 127 runs.
Australian pacemen Josh Hazlewood, who claimed the wickets of opener Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman said the home side didn’t expect rain to stand in their way.
“We’ve looked at it (weather forecast) a little bit,” he said.
“I think there is just some rain tomorrow morning, hopefully that doesn’t hang around too long and we can get the best part of two sessions in to take these next six wickets.”
“We’d love to have stayed out there for another today and got that fifth wicket, but we’ll come back tomorrow for the other six.”
The last man out on the fourth day was James Vince for a neat 55, bowled when a Mitchell Starc ball jagged off a crack and crashed into his stumps.
That Vince wicket ball would’ve dismissed every batsman in the history of the game. Not often you can say that #Ashes
— Jimmy Neesham (@JimmyNeesh) December 17, 2017
Hazlewood said the crack would be part of the Australian attack’s game plan on the last day.
“I’d like five or six more (to hit the crack) tomorrow,” he said.
“You only need a couple to straighten off it and you are in the game.
“It’s a pretty simple method, there is not much more out there to aim at than that crack.”
Vince conceded there was nothing he could have done against the delivery.
‘IT’S GOING TO BE TOUGH’
More rain is forecast for Monday, although it is only predicted to be a problem before lunchtime.
Vince said the English believed they could save the game regardless of the weather.
“I think we try and put the rain to the back of our minds,” he said.
“We’ve got to have belief that we can save the series and get over the line tomorrow.
“It’s going to be tough and I’m sure there’s going to be some good balls flying around out there but these two especially showed in the first innings that they can occupy the crease for a long time, so hopefully they get off to a good start in the morning.”
The tourists’ second innings got off to a dismal start when opener Stoneman was caught behind from the bowling of Hazlewood for just three in the second over.
In his 150th Test, Cook’s woes then continued when Hazlewood snared a brilliant one-handed return catch to remove him for 14, leaving the former skipper with just 83 runs at 13.83 for the series.
Captain Joe Root was the third man out, to spinner Nathan Lyon’s first ball of the innings, caught at first slip by his Australian counterpart Steve Smith for 14 off the glove of wicketkeeper Tim Paine.
Earlier Australia scored their highest Ashes total at home and fifth-highest against England.
Although Smith added just 10 to his overnight total before being dismissed for 239, his innings was the cornerstone of the massive total.
Smith was adjudged leg before wicket on review after James Anderson’s confident shout was turned down by on-field umpire Chris Gaffaney.
The review ended a chanceless 399-ball epic innings which included 30 fours and one six.
The other overnight batsman, Mitchell Marsh, had departed a few minutes earlier — failing to add to his 181 when he was trapped leg before wicket by Anderson to end a 301-run partnership with Smith.
Anderson finished with four wickets, all claimed on day four, while Stuart Broad recorded career-worst figures of 0-142.
Australian batsmen Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh put England’s attack to the sword on the third day of the third Test in Perth Saturday, leaving the tourists praying for rain to salvage their hopes of retaining the Ashes.
The home side took total control of the match and were 549 for four in their first innings by stumps, with Smith on 229 and Marsh on 181, leading the hapless tourists by 146 runs with six wickets still in hand.
Australia lead the series 2-0 and can regain the Ashes with victory at the WACA Ground, with England’s hopes of staying alive in the five-match series seemingly resting with the local weather.
Heavy rain is forecast for the fourth day, but is not predicted to arrive until late in the afternoon, reducing the chances of a draw.
It was a horrendous day for England, who claimed just one wicket for the day at a cost of 346 runs.
Smith notched his second Test double-century in his highest Test score, and passed 1,000 runs in the calendar year, while Marsh answered his critics to post his maiden Test ton on his home ground.
STAT UPDATE. Mitchell Marsh has scored more 1st-innings runs in this Ashes than Cook & Root combined.
Those are not words I expected to be typing at the start of the series.
— Andy Zaltzman (@ZaltzCricket) December 16, 2017
Smith and Marsh dominated the flagging England attack to put on an unbroken stand of 301 for the fifth wicket without even offering a single chance.
It is the highest partnership for Australia against England at the WACA.
Captain Joe Root even turned to the part-time leg-spin of Dawid Malan late in the day in search of a desperately needed breakthrough.
Resuming on 92, Smith reached his 22nd Test hundred early in the day from the 138th ball he faced, his quickest Test century in terms of balls faced.
Coming in his 107th Test knock, only Don Bradman (58 innings) and Sunil Gavaskar (101 innings) have reached 22 Test centuries in fewer innings.
He then reached his double-hundred from 301 balls, including 26 fours and one six, although he was content to milk easy singles against a defensive field as he reached the milestone.
Marsh came to the crease under huge pressure to perform after a contentious recall, and having dropped a simple catch and bowled poorly during the England innings.
He started nervously but blossomed as his innings went on and notched his maiden Test century from the penultimate over before tea on his home ground, sparking scenes of jubilation from a parochial crowd.
Marsh had faced 130 balls for his hundred and a number of powerful drives were a feature of his landmark Test innings.
— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) December 16, 2017