Bukhatir XI added another A Division Cup to their trophy cabinet after defeating One Stop Tourism to clinch the Gold Cup.
Chasing 198 in 25 overs after Mohammad Ikram scored an unbeaten 102 at The Sevens, Dubai, Bukhatir reached their target in the 22nd over after an impressive partnership from Adnan Mufti (42no) and Rizwan CP (54no).
With Zawar Fareed (34), Khalid Shah (33) and Chirag Suri (28) dismissed and with the score 124-3, Mufti and Rizwan came together with a vital unbeaten 76-run stand.
The result meant Bukhatir were celebrating another title success following their victory in Ajman earlier in the season and UAE international Mufti praised the team’s owner Khalaf Bukhatir for his support.
“It’s great to be part of the winning side,” said Mufti, who was part of the UAE squad that competed in the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe.
“We all worked together as a team for this win. Almost all the team is under the age of 28 and this trophy would not have been possible without Khalaf Bukhatir who is a firm supporter of promoting young talent and giving them opportunities to play in domestic cricket in the UAE,” added the batsman, who is the oldest at 33-years-old.
The national team returned home from the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe on Saturday morning and despite not reaching the showpiece event in 2019, they could reflect on a memorable three weeks.
They managed to advance to the Super Six stage, while also retaining their ODI status until 2022. Brown’s side also managed to deny Zimbabwe a place in the World Cup with an historic win – their first over a Test nation.
After ODI status was sealed for another four years, ECB member and spokesperson Zayed Abbas said they are hopeful of pushing ahead with plans to award more players central contracts. In July 2016, the UAE announced 12 contracted players – eight on full-time and four on part-time deals.
Brown says he’s been impressed with the players’ efforts and, if funding permits, believes it would be another positive move to have more cricketers on contracts.
“We probably have at this moment of time, about a group of 22 players whom we can call upon,” said the 48-year-old. “We know that if we are going to sustain our form, we need to have a far better playing squad for the games that we are playing.
“We also need to have a competitive environment, which at this moment of time, is competitive but needs to be more competitive. It would be good if that’s the case but it all depends on funding.
“I would love there to be more contracts but it’s a balancing act between what we require and what we would like and what is completely viable. At this moment, we only have the number of contracts that we have and hopefully over time we can have more.”
One of the players on a central contract is batsman Adnan Mufti. The 33-year-old has become a key member of the squad since making his debut in December 2016.
And the Pakistan-born player saying he’s reaping the rewards of being a professional cricketer.
“It’s been very good for us,” he said. “We have been going through a good process. After working full day, it can be hard to then go to practice. But these contacts is very good for UAE cricket.
“You can see in the results that we have been producing. The victory over Zimbabwe has shown how far we have come.”
He added: “Working every day in training is a big plus as it helps develop your knowledge while also making sure you’re physically fit as well.”
Dougie Brown’s side will compete in the tournament alongside hosts Kuwait, Maldives, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia between April 20-27. It is the first qualifying stage for the showpiece event in Australia.
According to the Maldives Cricket Association website, the event will be played in a round-robin format with the top three sides joining Nepal, Singapore and Malaysia in the Asia Regional finals.
On paper, the UAE are favourites to claim one of the qualifying spots and skipper Rohan Mustafa believes they have enough quality to progress to the next stage.
“For us, it’s an important tournament event and one that I feel will have no problem qualifying for the next round,” said the 29-year-old all-rounder.
“There are some good teams there but it’s a chance for us to qualify for the next round of the World Twenty20.”
The UAE last reached the global competition in 2014 when they suffered a group stage exit after consecutive losses to Netherlands, Zimbabwe and Ireland.
But they will go into the tournament in Kuwait buoyed by their showing at the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe. Despite not qualifying for England, they secured ODI status until 2022, while also registering their first triumph over hosts Zimbabwe on Thursday – their first against a Test nation. They also put on spirited displays against Afghanistan and West Indies.
And head coach Brown believes his team will only get stronger, beginning in Kuwait after their performances in Zimbabwe.
“I could not have been more proud on the effort of the guys not just for the tournament but over the last 12 months,” said the 48-year-old.
“It’s just a reward for everything they have given towards that has seen them be in this position. Obviously, whoever has watched the game against Zimababwe, will be delighted that we got over the line but some of the games that we played that were not on television particularly against West Indies and Afghanistan, I thought we played exceptionally well.
“On paper, you would think they are ahead of us but we showed that we have an attitude that allowed us to compete at this level.”