Najibullah Zadran made the UAE pay for a dropped catch as his half century saw Afghanistan seal the T20I series courtesy of a five-wicket victory on Friday.
Defending a competitive 179 at Dubai International Stadium, the hosts were in command with the Afghans at 122-5, still needing 58 from five overs to win.
The UAE should have got their sixth scalp in Mohammed Shahzad’s fourth delivery of the 15th over but Zadran was lucky to still be at the crease after being dropped when on eight. The batsman then punished the UAE bowlers, finding the boundary five times as well as three sixes.
His 67-run partnership with Mohammed Nabi (13no) eventually proved to be decisive as the tourists reached their target with two balls to spare. Despite the result, head coach Owais Shah will be encouraged by what he saw especially after Shaiman Anwar’s half-century.
The 37-year-old rediscovered his form with the bat, top-scoring with 60 as he and Rameez Shahzad’s unbeaten 47, helped the UAE reach 179-4 in their 20 overs. For Anwar, it was his first fifty in nine matches since his 63-run knock in the seven-wicket defeat to Scotland back in August, but he was left with mixed emotions.
“It was good to score a half-century today but it would’ve been better if we had won the match, so I’m a bit disappointed,” he said.
“I got a 34 in the first match and now a 60, so I hope to score big runs.”
UAE 179-4, 20 over (Shaiman Anwar 60, Rameez Shahzad 47, Fareed Ahmad 2-39) lost to Afghanistan 183-5, 19.4 overs (Najibullah Zadran 55, Mohammad Shahzad 31, Amjad Javed 3-40) by five wickets
Tempted by free entry and the chance to see their cricketing heroes in action, Afghanistan’s support was overwhelming at ICC Academy.
Hundreds of Afghans turned out to cheer on their team and they were duly rewarded with a narrow victory as UAE came up short in the final over of the match.
Chasing Afghanistan’s target of 162, UAE were in the contest at 106-3 and Shaiman Anwar ad Rameez Shahzad at the crease at the start of the 15th over.
Needing a further 56 from five overs on the ICC Academy oval, short boundaries and two set batsmen strengthened their hand despite needing over ten an over.
But, as Shaiman fell for 34 with the second ball of the over, the task grew as the run-rate climbed and the situation got the better of the hosts.
Rameez eventually fell for 49 from 32 balls at the end of the 19th over, ending UAE hopes in the process despite Muhammad Usman’s 18 from eight balls that took UAE close on paper as they finished up 150-7.
Earlier in proceedings, Afghanistan opted to bat after winning the toss and UAE’s Ahmed Raza and Mohammad Naveed exercised superb control to initially nullify Afghanistan’s opening pair of Najeed Tarakai and Mohammad Shahzad.
The UAE duo’s eight overs registered combined figures of 1-36, provided Shah’s men with the perfect start.
However, a combination of shelled catches by UAE and some destructive late Afghanistan hitting saw the latter’s score sky-rocket from 65-3 after ten overs to 161-6 after their allotted 20.
After Shahzad departed for 38, Mohammad Nabi (26) and Karim Janat (25) steadied the ship before Najibullah Zadran (31) and then Rashid Khan (14) bludgeoned their side into the interval.
Zadran’s innings came from just 10 balls and included two fours and three sixes, while Khan’s cameo saw the young leg-spinner hit two fours and a six from his four balls at the crease.
Their combined extra 45 runs from 14 balls ultimately proved the difference as UAE’s batsmen showed their inexperience in closing games out.
The former batting star with Lancashire County Cricket Club’s second team and now award-winning coach will join the ICC Academy from early January before officially beginning coaching programmes from January 17.
The 36-year-old is regarded as one of the UK’s most promising young cricket coaches. He is currently lead coach and senior manager at Lancashire CCC’s Cricket Centre at Emirates Old Trafford where he is responsible for the coaching programmes from grass roots level through to professional players, including England bowling star James Anderson.
Once one of the top performers in the renowned Lancashire League, Ali is now an ECB Level 4 coach. His CV includes such positions as head coach of the England physical disability team and a specialist fielding coach, most recently with the UAE National Team during their UK and Scotland tour this summer.
In 2014, he also won the Coach of the Year award at the ECB’s Asian Cricket Awards.
“It’s with great pleasure that I’m able to announce that we have appointed Qasim Ali as our new head of cricket development,” said Will Kitchen, ICC Academy Manager and UAE Cricket high performance manager.
“I feel very fortunate to be able to add someone with Qas’s skills, knowledge and expertise into the Academy and I’m certain that all of our players, parents and teams alike will soon feel the impact of the continued improvement of our cricket development programmes.”
Ali will start with ICC Academy in early January and will take responsibility for and coach across the breadth of cricket development programmes at the ICC Academy.
“I’m hugely honoured to take on this role and can’t wait to begin this exciting new chapter in my career,” said Ali.
“My objective is to build on the incredible coaching foundations established here and continue to develop an exceptional cricketing environment. The facilities at the ICCA are second to none and I am looking forward to working with parents and staff to nurture elite players and coaches.”