UAE head coach Dougie Brown says their loss to Canada provided them with a timely wake-up call ahead of their crucial match against Nepal on Sunday.
The national team go into their World Cricket League Division Two match in Namibia on the back of Friday’s disappointing 23-run defeat to Canada despite looking on course for victory in their chase of 210. The UAE had thrashed Kenya by 218 run in their opening match on Thursday.
With three more matches to play, another negative result will leave the UAE with an uphill task of claiming one of the top two spots and a place in next month’s World Cup Qualifier.
And Brown insists if they want to book their flight to Zimbabwe, they cannot afford to put on another disappointing performance where only four batsmen reached double figures.
“I hope the defeat is a wake-up call,” said Brown. “It’s disappointing because it’s a game (Canada) that we really should have won. At one point being 120 to win and to come short is really disappointing. But with the way the results have gone in the last two days, we are exactly in the same position as we were in the first game of the competition.
“Now there are three games to go and it’s imperative that we put on strong performances for these matches. We can’t afford another blip like we had today.”
Captain Rohan Mustafa, who took five wickets in the Canada loss, admitted the players only had themselves to blame and vowed to return to winning ways and Brown expects no different.
“There are two ways that we can deal with this,” said the 48-year-old.
“We can sulk and point the finger at this and for that reason and make excuses. Or, we can come back as men and a team who are hungry and want to put things right which we didn’t do today. Knowing this bunch of lads, I’m sure they will come back and prove to people that it’s a blip and we have the best of our games ahead of us. We can’t afford to have another day like we had today.”
The former Warwickshire coach added: “Just for some reason we have managed to not deal with the pressure. We need to trust what we’re doing in training. We got most of the game right today but the thing that was important was from where we were in a match winning situation and just shows that if you can’t see the game to its conclusion, you won’t win matches.”
The UAE had gone into their match at Windhoek, Namibia, buoyed by an impressive 218 thrashing over Kenya on Thursday but they were unable to replicate the result against the Canadians.
Set 209 to win, the UAE would have fancied their chances of reaching the target but their batsmen struggled to make an impact. Only four players reached double figures, with Shabbir top-scoring with 55 from 92 deliveries.
Despite returning to the field after coming off for a thumb injury, skipper Mustafa was unable to save his team as the UAE were all out for 186.
Mustafa, who took 5-34 earlier in the game, lamented the batting performance but backed his team to bounce back strongly and keep their hopes of claiming the top two spots for the World Cup Qualifiers.
“The batsmen went for some shots which we should not have gone for,” said the 29-year-old. “I think it was easy to chase 209 and there was no big required run-rate. The boys should learn from that because we don’t have many more chances (if we want to qualify). We are all quite upset and I think we’ll come back hard.”
He added: “I think that not to reach 209 was quite frustrating for us as a team. The boys are really upset but we should not think too much about this defeat. We should think positively and forget the negativity of this game.”
The UAE will next face Nepal on Sunday.
On Thursday, the UAE will begin their most important tournament since the Asia Cup qualifiers when they line up in the ICC World Cricket League Division Two and it’s a lot more than just being champions.
After a disappointing campaign in Division One, finishing third from bottom, the UAE will be hoping to make the most of their second chance and qualify for the 2019 World Cup, which is to be hosted in England and Wales. Just two spots are available to join the likes of West Indies and Afghanistan next month with Oman, Kenya, Canada, Nepal and hosts Namibia all standing in their way.
Here, we look at three reasons why the UAE should be optimistic:
Counting on experience
The ECB have been careful not to do too much chopping and changing in the last 12 months with an eye on qualifying for elite tournaments and their decisions have been paying off. Since the Desert T20 last January, 10 players from that squad are currently in Namibia and the majority of players have played more or less non-stop over the past 12 months.
While some UAE players will be contesting a tournament of such significance for the first time in their international careers, the team has plenty of experience in the ranks.
Among them is veteran batsman Shaiman Anwar, who at 37, is the oldest member of the travelling party as well as the likes of captain Rohan Mustafa, Ahmed Raza and Mohammed Naveed who have all been at this stage before.
Good run of form
If this tournament had come this time one year ago, the prospect of the UAE’s qualifying chances looked a lot bleaker than they do now. Victories and consistency were hard to come by especially when the ECB were searching for a permanent successor to Aaqib Javed.
But with former Warwickshire supremo Dougie Brown brought in as interim coach in February and then being named new head coach three months later, they have rediscovered the form that made them one of the top Associate sides under Javed.
In the last 30 matches, 20 wins have been registered including triumphs over Oman, Papua New Guinea and an impressive away series win in the Netherlands. They might have been beaten by Ireland in Dubai prior to their departure but their victory over Scotland shows they will be a force to be reckoned with.
With the matches in Namibia played in high altitude, the UAE have left no stones unturned. While Nepal have prepared for the tournament by training in Dubai, Brown’s side travelled to Pretoria for a week-long training camp ahead of their arrival in Windhoek. It was the same when they toured the African nation last September and that yielded positives results with victory in the four-day I-Cup and their World Cricket League Championship encounter.
Competition will be much fiercer considering what is at stake this time round and the tight schedule of the tournament being completed in just seven days just adds to the list of obstacles that they must overcome.
Brown made it clear ahead of the Zimbabwe ‘A’ 5-0 whitewash in October, the focus was claiming one of the top two spots in Division Two and it’s a vision shared by the players. It’s now up to them to deliver and keep their World Cup dream alive. After all, they will only have themselves to blame if they can’t continue their World Cup road in Zimbabwe.