The UAE can look forward to facing the likes Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the Under-19 Asia Cup this week after delivering when it really mattered to thrash Kuwait by 194 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis method in the Western Region final on Tuesday day.
With three consecutive victories under their belt, the UAE arguably faced their toughest test of the tournament against their Gulf neighbours, who also boasted a perfect record from their four games.
Both sides had to wait more than an hour due to rain at Malaysia’s Kinrara Oval but when play started, it proved to be a one-sided contest.
The UAE set an imposing total of 275-7 with skipper Fahad Nawaz (69), Aryan Lakra (51) and Krishna Lakhani (55) all reaching half-centuries.
That was too much for Kuwait, as Nawaz (3-14), Rahul Bhatia (3-19) and Muhammed Ali (3-19) ripped through the batting order as they were all out for 80 runs.
For the UAE, it will be the second time they will be competing in the Asia Cup following their 2013-2014 participation when they qualified as hosts.
They will now stay on in Malaysia ahead of their opening match against 2016 runners-up Sri Lanka on Friday.
They will also face Pakistan and Afghanistan with the top two sides advancing to the semi-finals.
For Lakra, who helped put on a 113-run stand for the opening wicket with Nawaz, could not hide his delight of helping the team reach the main competition.
“It really feels great to be part of the UAE team to have qualified for the Asia Cup,” he said. “I think this is the first time the UAE have qualified in an age-event and this victory shows it is a really good step for junior cricket to continue growing in the UAE.”
Lakra’s half-century was even more significant considering it was his first ever international fifty and was happy it came at this stage.
“I was really pleased with my half-century. It was my first half-century for the UAE at Under-19 and was really happy to get it.”
“This 50 would have to be at the top of all of them right now, scoring a half-century in the Asian Cup final qualifiers is a great feeling.”
Amjad Javed says it’s an “honour” to be playing alongside Shahid Afridi in next month’s T10 Cricket League and believes it is the perfect opportunity for UAE players to prove they’re worthy of playing in elite T20 competitions.
Javed, 37, was among the picks in Saturday’s draft, selected by Pakhtoon team, which will be led by Afridi for the inaugural edition at Sharjah Cricket Stadium between December 14-17.
It means Javed will be meeting Afridi for the third time in three years. The all-rounder was part of the UAE squad when in the 129-run loss to Pakistan at the 2015 World Cup, before falling to a seven-wicket defeat in the same fixture at last year’s Asia Cup.
But he is looking forward to sharing the same dressing room with the former Pakistan captain – a man he calls as his “T20 batting hero”.
“It will be an honour to play with him in the same team,” he said. “The fan following will be more of him than any of the other players. But it certainly gives us the advantage that the most popular cricketer in the T20 league is on the same side as me.
“It’s something that I’m looking forward to by playing under him. I feel lucky that he has taken me because I scored some runs and took some wickets when we played against Pakistan.”
Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Pakistan’s Fakhar Zaman and Umar Gul and other elite stars will be something new for Javed and the other UAE team-mates.
Rameez Shahzad, Mohammad Naveed (Bengal Tigers), Shareef Asadullah, Ghulam Shabbir (Punjabi Legends), Rohan Mustafa, Imran Haider (Kerala Kings), and Saqlain Haider (Pakthoon) will also be in action over the four days.
In the past, the UAE internationals have been overlooked for T20 elite competitions apart from Chirag Suri’s selection for the Gujarat Lions at this year’s IPL.
But Javed feels the T10 Cricket League could be just the event to press their case and show their potential worldwide.
“It will give us the chance to show how good we are and hopefully go and play in one of the big T20 leagues.”
Pakistan‘s Sarfraz Ahmed, skipper of Bengal Tigers, says he cannot wait to test himself in the latest format at next month’s T10 Cricket League but admits the version could be his biggest challenge as both a player and captain.
The sport will enter a new era with Sarfraz among the elite players to take to the field at Sharjah Cricket Stadium between December 14-17 for the inaugural tournament. It will see them play 10-overs-a-side matches over 90 minutes.
By being given the Bengal Tigers’ armband, Sarfraz finds himself in the same role as Pakistan’s Test, ODI and T20 captain but like all of the international cricketers, will be stepping into unknown territory with the new format.
— Denzil M Pinto (@denz_360) November 6, 2017
But even with 153 international caps across all three versions under his belt, Sarfraz acknowledges it will still be a challenge but one that will help raise his and his team-mates’ game.
“There are going to be challenges for me and the team,” he told Sport360 after he unveiled the team’s jersey alongside two of the team’s co-owners Anis Sajan, managing director of Danube Group and Neelesh Bhatnagar, owner of NB Venture, yesterday in Dubai.
“You see T10 cricket is a new format – not just for me but the other players as we’ve never played it before. But I will try my level best to do the best for Bengal Tigers.
“In T10, it’s the shortest format now in the game of cricket. That means that it’s going to be more faster. Previously there were Test matches over five days and then there were 50-over games. Then there were T20s.
“But now there’s even a shorter format in the T10, which is more challenging. I would say it’s going to be very fast like a computer lighting up quickly. It just means I have to be more alert as a captain and so do my players because every ball that is bowled or run that is scored is crucial. You cannot afford to be lapsing in concentration so I and my team need to be focused all the time in the game.
“But I’m very happy for this opportunity to play in this competition and very excited. Thank you to Anis bhai for giving me the chance to be part of the team and hopefully our team will do well Inshallah.”
Sarfraz assisted the team management during Sunday’s Player Draft at the Dubai Marina with the squad boasting the likes of World T20 winning captain Darren Sammy, Sunil Narine and ex-South Africa all-rounder Ryan McLaren.
In a draft that saw England’s Alex Hales, Adil Rashid and Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir among the picks, Sarfraz is pleased with his strength in depth but revealed he had identified his national team-mate all-rounder Imad Wasim as a potential signing.
“He’s a player who can bowl and bat,” he said. “In whatever team you are, you want a player who has plenty of experience of playing in the shorter formats. Unfortunately, because he’s so good it means that every team wants him but we are happy with what we have.
“We had a pre-draft before and we are happy to have got what we have. We picked some strong players and picked most of the players that we wanted.”