Ahmed Raza insists the UAE cannot afford to play any other way but their ‘A game’ if they want to beat hosts Namibia and reach next month’s World Cup Qualifier.
The national team enter their final group game knowing victory against the hosts on Wednesday will secure a top-two finish in the tournament and most importantly a place in the final 2019 World Cup qualifying competition in Zimbabwe.
Even if they win, they could be denied if the clash between Canada and Nepal, the top two sides with six points each in the competition, is abandoned or tied.
But Raza says the UAE must concentrate on themselves and focus on achieving their objective of progressing to the qualifying round next month.
“We know the consequences and know the pressure and it’s a game that is big for us,” said Raza, who took 2-16 in the 46-run victory against Oman on Monday.
“We just have to go out there and play our A game. It’s a big game that we have to win and we just have to go out there are do our job.”
There's just one round of group matches left at #WCL2 tomorrow, with Canada, Namibia and Nepal all on 6 points!
— ICC (@ICC) February 13, 2018
Wednesday’s clash will be the fifth time the UAE and Namibia have met in the last 13 months. The UAE triumphed in last January’s Desert T20 before coming out on top in the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup in September. They then followed it up with a loss and win in the 50-over game.
The match for Namibia will be even more significant after their eight-wicket triumph on Tuesday – a result that put them second in the standings.
“We have got a decent record against Namibia and it’s about applying the pressure to them – just like how we did against Oman,” he said. “It’s all about working in pairs and in working in partnerships. We know the job we need to do and will do everything we can to win the game.”
The UAE kept their slim hopes of reaching next month’s World Cup Qualifiers alive after their bowlers delivered in style to pull off an unlikely 46-run victory against Oman.
With successive losses to Canada and Nepal, the UAE entered their World Cricket League Division Two clash against their Gulf neighbours knowing nothing but victory would do if they wanted to still be in contention of claiming the top two qualifying spots.
They duly delivered with their bowlers saving the national team after the batsmen struggled again with a total score of 159 despite Ghulam Shabbir’s 63-run effort.
Imran Haider (3-31) and Mohammad Naveed (3-8) were the two to do the most damage as Oman suffered a remarkable batting collapse. At 93-4 at the half-way stage, they appeared to be cruising but the UAE hit back, claiming five wickets for 12 runs.
For spinner Haider, he was happy to have played his role with the ball in a significant victory.
“Obviously to win a match is a special feeling but the way we bounced back and defended a small total was very satisfying,” said the 30-year-old. “I’m delighted to have played an excellent game and I hope we can go on and become stronger from now on.”
For captain Rohan Mustafa, he had nothing but praise for his bowlers. “The way that we came back was excellent and Mohammad Naveed and Imran Haider bowled extremely well,” said the 29-year-old all-rounder. “The wicket wasn’t easy to play on and we gave our wickets away. I’m really happy with how our bowlers bowled.”
Despite years of representing the national team, he was thrilled to have been on the winning side in one of the “most pressurised” games he has played in.
“It was a match where there was a lot of pressure,” Mustafa added. “It wasn’t a type of match that I had played before. But I’m happy to have won because the last two games were very disappointing.”
The result puts the UAE in third position, two points behind Nepal who stay in second following a last-ball three-wicket win over Kenya on Monday. Canada still remain top of the standings with six points despite a shock 17-run defeat to Namibia.
The UAE take on hosts Namibia on Wednesday where victory is essential if they want to reach the Qualifier in Zimbabwe.
Head coach Dougie Brown will be hoping for a better batting performance against Namibia with three of their top six batsmen reaching double figures against Oman.
UAE’s task of reaching next month’s World Cup Qualifier became tougher as they fell to a second successive loss in the World Cricket League Division Two on Sunday, this time against Nepal.
In a match that was reduced to 34 overs after play was delayed by a wet outfield in Namibia, the UAE batsmen struggled at Windhoek. They only managed 114 with veteran batsman Shaiman Anwar top-scoring with 30 as Nepal’s 17-year-old spinning sensation Sandeep Lamichhane showed why he was bought by Delhi Daredevils in the IPL auction.
Lamichhane (3-30) took the key wickets of Anwar, Rameez Shahzad (4) and Muhammad Usman (0).
Nepal managed to cross the line with four wickets to spare despite being 20-3 at one stage. Skipper Paras Khadka led from the front, hitting 51 runs as Nepal reached their target in 28.5 overs.
The result leaves UAE third in the six-team standings on two points, two behind Nepal and four adrift of surprise leaders Canada (six). The Canadians defeated Kenya by 59 runs.
With the top two teams qualifying for March’s World Cup Qualifier, the UAE face must-win matches against Oman today and hosts Namibia on Wednesday.