It’s been a good month for UAE cricket after registering ODI, first-class and T20I series wins over Papua New Guinea.
After a pretty barren run of form since the departure of coach Aaqib Javed in April last year, temporary incumbent Dougie Brown has finally found a winning formula for the UAE.
Previous short term appointments Paul Franks and Owais Shah had less success when it came to results but it seems a lightbulb has switched on in the UAE camp.
At the heart of the team’s resurgence has been five men, including Brown.
Here, we look at those who have instigated UAE’s much needed return to form.
UAE’s Shaiman Anwar insists there’s no reason why he can’t score more tons and even harbours hopes of playing when he reaches 40 following his historic T20I century on Friday.
The 38-year-old entered the record books by becoming the first UAE cricketer to reach the milestone in the shortest format.
The veteran was on a different level with the bat at Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Stadium and proved that age is no barrier with a superb 117no (10 fours and six sixes) off just 68 deliveries in their 30-run victory over Papua New Guinea, which sealed the three-match series with one match to spare.
It was the second time he became his national team’s first centurion after he was the first UAE cricketer to reach triple figures in the World Cup against Ireland in the 2015 tournament.
Friday’s knock eclipsed his personal best of 60 (against Afghanistan in 2016) and the Sialkot-born batsman was thrilled he delivered a match-winning performance.
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“It’s absolutely a great feeling to score a century in such an important game,” he said. “I have been working hard for the last couple of months and now the hard work has paid off. I didn’t know my score was the highest by a UAE batsman until I was told and it feels even more special considering it helped us win the game.
“To put on the UAE shirt and play for your country is always an honour and I just went out there and played my natural game. I have scored a century in the World Cup and now T20 and let’s hope this isn’t the end of more centuries for me because I still feel fresh.”
Since he made his international debut in the early 2000s, Anwar has become a mainstay for the UAE team for more than a decade, scoring more than 4,000 runs.
Former captain Khurram Khan, who became a key figure for the UAE, retired from international cricket in June 2015, two weeks short of his 44th birthday.
Anwar insists he has no plans to lay down the bat anytime soon providing he’s at the top of his game with his fitness.
“I think I can continue playing in my 40s but this all depends on my fitness,” he said.
“I feel I’m in good shape at the moment and with any sport, you have to be fit to play because it’s definitely a lot harder to play if you’re not training hard.”
This year’s tournament, sponsored by One Stop Tourism, will consist of 16 teams contesting in the 50-over day and night tournament, with the final match scheduled for May 24.
The draw for the tournament was held at an event at the Sharjah Stadium and attended by many dignitaries from the cricketing fraternity.
The draw was live streamed, and the organisers have also decided to live stream the semi-finals and finals of the tournament on ‘Livescores.ae’.
A total of 31 games will be held, including the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final.
The 16 teams have been divided into four groups with each team getting to play a minimum of three matches. The top two teams from each group qualify for the knockout stage. All matches will start at 5pm.
Waleed Bukhatir and Khalaf Bukhatir, son of UAE cricket patron Abdulrahman Bukhatir, attended the draw and Waleed, Vice Chairman of the Sharjah Cricket Club said: “First of all we would like to thank Mr Abdulrahman Bukhatir for the unrelenting support he has given in promoting cricket at the domestic level by providing the world class Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
“We are happy and excited for the tournament, which gives the players an opportunity to showcase their talent. We would want to thank all the sponsors for their overwhelming support.
The opening match today will be played between ECB Blues and Bukhatir XI.
The tournament carries a total prize money of Dh45,000. The winners will earn Dh25,000 while the runners-up will take home Dh15,000.