The UAE find themselves exactly where they want to be in the ICC World Twenty20 Asia Qualifiers. After opening the campaign with a six-wicket victory against Qatar on Friday the UAE wrapped up a seven-wicket win against Saudi Arabia just 24 hours later to stand top of the six-team tournament.
We look at the talking points and takeaways so far ahead of their match against Bahrain on Monday.
THE PERFECT START
On paper, they are the highest ranked nation in the first phase of the competition, but head coach Dougie Brown stressed the importance of hitting the ground running and ‘dominating’ the opposition before they began their campaign and the 48-year-old will be pleased they are not playing catch-up at this stage.
In the Division Two World Cricket League back in February, they were in real danger of losing their ODI status and reaching the World Cup Qualifier after back-to-back defeats to Nepal and Canada but bounced back emphatically.
By sitting top of the league with a perfect record, they have a two-point cushion over Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who all have two points each but, more importantly, they are in control of winning the event and taking one of the three qualification berths.
IMRAN HAIDER AND ASHFAQ AHMED STEPPING UP AGAIN
The Saudi batsmen struggled against the UAE bowlers with just five reaching double figures and their highest individual score being 21. While it was a team effort with Rohan Mustafa, Amir Hayat and Mohammad Naveed taking two wickets each, Imran Haider showed once again he can do the damage with spin after taking 3-6 in his four overs.
With senior player Ahmed Raza rested for the tour, Haider will be leading the attack with his spin and the 30-year-old has certainly showed he’s one of the experienced players in the squad with five scalps in two matches.
For Ashfaq Ahmed, the opener is proving to be quite a player for the UAE. He only made his debut in December 2017 but already has five half-centuries to his name in 24 appearances. He was unlucky to not add to that tally after finishing unbeaten on 46, a vast improvement after scoring 16 against Qatar.
TIME TO EXPERIMENT
With senior batsman Shaiman Anwar rested for the tournament, it has allowed the UAE to explore other options in the team.
One change has been captain Mustafa, who usually opens the innings, dropping down the batting order to No3. It was a decision taken 24 hours before the first game and it’s a position that Mustafa will continue for the entire tournament. He might not have fared well against Saudi with 10 runs, but he can still come up with the goods as shown by his match-winning 71 against Qatar on Friday.
The UAE got their World Twenty20 qualifying campaign off to a winning note as captain Rohan Mustafa led from the front in their six-wicket victory over Qatar.
Chasing 143 after a three-wicket haul from Mohammad Naveed, the UAE reached their target with nine balls to spare thanks to a superb 71-run effort from Mustafa.
The all-rounder usually opens the innings but was sent down the batting order at No.3. But the change didn’t have any impact with the 29-year-old hitting five sixes and two fours in his 45-ball stay.
Openers Ashfaq Ahmed and Chirag Suri both scored 16 while Mohammed Bootha remained unbeaten on 20.
For Mustafa, he was pleased with his performance and confirmed he will play the entire tournament at number three.
“We wanted to try Chirag and Ashfaq as the opening batsmen because for me I can bat in any position,” he said. “Ashfaq plays well while Suri takes his time but can score big runs. It was a decision that was taken on Thursday when the coach asked me and I said it wouldn’t be a problem. I will play at number three for the rest of the tournament.”
The UAE will be aiming to make it two straight wins when they meet Saudi Arabia on Saturday to boost their hopes of claiming one of the three qualification spots.
The national team open their Asian Sub Regional Qualifier campaign on Friday against Qatar as they bid to claim one of the three places that would see them advance to the next qualifying stage.
With hosts Kuwait, Maldives, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also in the mix, the UAE are strong favourites to win the competition considering they are the top-ranked side.
But, Brown has warned his players to not underestimate any of their opponents.
“We have just come back from a couple of tournaments (World Cricket League Division Two and World Cup Qualifier) where the form guide goes out of the window,” said the 48-year-old.
“What we need to do, is not worry about being favourites or not. We have to go out there and grab the game by the scruff of the neck in every match. That means we have to stay in the game and keep ahead of the game.
“We are a team on paper, will be the form team over there but ultimately if you don’t get your skills right and don’t commit as a team, you’ll end up falling short. It’s a global tournament and you can’t afford to go into the second or third game trying to win them. Every game we have to go out there and try and dominate and that that is what we’ll be trying to achieve.”
The UAE will be playing in the shortest format of the game for the first time in a year with their last T20 match coming in April 2017 when they defeated Papua New Guinea. Since then, they have been playing a majority of 50-over matches in the build-up to last month’s World Cup Qualifier.
But the players have stepped up their preparations in the recently-concluded T20 Inter-Emirate tournament and along with their familiarity with the shortest format, it bodes well for their chances in Kuwait City.
“Since I came over over here full-time, we have spent very little time playing T20 cricket,” said Brown.
“We have spent most of the time trying to get T20 cricket out of the players. It’s a format they play so much of and hopefully that will play into our hands a little bit but there’s a number of good teams that will be out there and try to beat us. We know that and we have to be on top of our game.”