Afghanistan wrapped up a convincing 3-0 series whitewash over UAE at ICC Academy, winning the final match of the series in front of another partisan away crowd on Sunday.
Ultimately, it was Afghanistan’s ability to hit boundaries at will at the business end of the innings and UAE’s inability to replicate it in their chase that proved the difference as the tourists inflicted a 44-run defeat on their hosts.
Winning the toss and batting first, Afghanistan were given a flying start thanks to Mohammad Shahzad (44) and Najeeb Tarakai (40).
The pair put on 67 for the first wicket, setting a platform for the tourists’ brutal middle-order to exploit.
And they did just that, Usman Ghani (27), Samiullah Shenwari (39) and Najibullah Zadran (18*) all scoring at well above a run a ball before again laying waste to UAE’s death bowlers as they added 45 in the final four overs.
They finished on 189-5 from their 20 overs, the highest total of the series so far.
UAE, without captain Amjad Javed, bowlers once again suffered beyond opening duo of Mohammad Naveed (1-23) and Ahmed Raza (1-33), even Rohan Mustafa’s 2-27 coming at a rate of 9.00 an over.
When Mohammad Shahzad (1) perished in the second over, it looked like UAE’s leaky bowling was to prove costly but a superb second-wicket partnership between captain for the day Rohan Mustafa and Shaiman Anwar kept them up with the running.
After a series of starts – 38, 45 and 40 against England Lions and then 25 and 43 in this series – Mustafa finally registered a half century, doing so in just 29 balls.
However, he couldn’t make his innings count with a big score, eventually caught and bowled by Mohammad Nabi for 54 from the final ball of the tenth over.
It left UAE 91-1 at the midway stage and still in contention, especially with Shaiman at the crease and having found invaluable form.
But he still needed support from the other end which wasn’t forthcoming, Ghulam Shabber coming and going in swift fashion, bowled for a duck by 18-year-old leggie Rashid Khan three balls later.
It took the wind out of UAE’s sails, Khan expertly restricting the hosts who were grateful for Shaiman being put down at mid-wicket off Karim Janat to keep their hopes alive.
Those hopes were dwindling, though, as UAE were unable to find or clear the ropes, going 36 balls from the first of the 12th over until the final ball of the 17th without a four or six.
Nabi (3-30) and Khan (3-14) were the instigators in UAE’s snail-like progress in the second-half, showing just why the pair are, alongside opener Shahzad, the hottest Associate Nation properties in T20 cricket.
Starved of boundaries, UAE were never going to get close and ended up a distant second by the time they limped through the 20th over on 145-8.
UAE captain Amjad Javed has challenged his team to end their disappointing year on a high with a consolation victory against Afghanistan on Sunday.
It’s been a frustrating 2016 for the hosts, who have struggled to replicate the form that saw them qualify for the 2015 World Cup, while also seeing Aaqib Javed end his successful four-year stint as coach in May.
In 28 matches in all formats, the UAE have only registered eight victories, including the three wins that saw them reach the Asia Cup main tournament in March. All-rounder Amjad admits he’s been frustrated with the results in the last 12 months but insists a win over Afhganistan in the final T20 of the series in Dubai, in which they have already lost, will give them a lot of confidence.
“Definitely it’s not been a good year,” said Amjad, installed as skipper in all formats in 2016.
“We would’ve like to have won some matches but at times, we just lost out. It could’ve have been a different story but now we can only focus on the future. If you see the performances of the team during the last year, everyone can see that we’re not playing well. We’ve been playing okay but not concentrating fully enough.
“If we can win this game against Afghanistan, it will be really good for us and it will motivate us for future matches in 2017.”
His team’s last success was in October during the six-wicket victory against Oman, but Amjad insists he’s seeing signs of improvement in their recent defeats.
“We pushed England Lions all the way in the third game and only lost by a few runs, while we came really close to beating Afghanistan on Friday, so we can be dangerous when we play to our potential,” he said. “To win the game, everyone needs to focus on every ball and play their part because it’s a team effort.
“As soon as you win one game, you can start building on that.”
The UAE will go into their semi- final clash with a perfect record after a resounding 77-run triumph over Qatar on Saturday in the International Women’s T20 Cup.
The hosts were already assured of a last-four spot after beating Malaysia and Kenya but Mohammed Haider’s team were intent on making it three straight wins. They now face Kuwait in Sunday’s semi-final and will fancy their chances of reaching the final based on Saturday’s performance.
Batting first at Sharjah Stadium, the UAE got off to a brilliant start with openers Subha Srinivasan (31) and Esha Oza (18) sharing a fine 50run partnership for the first wicket.
Chaya Mughal chipped in with a crucial 18 before being run-out, while Priyanjali Jain fired a 21-ball 25 as the hosts posted an impressive 139-7 in 20 overs.
Qatar had a poor start to their run-chase with UAE skipper Humaira Tasneem (one) and Natasha Michael (two) removing the top three batswomen with just eight on the board.
Kerry Pounsett (14) and Nazia Tabbasum (17) put up a brief resistence but the UAE bowled exceptionally well as the tourists were all out for 62 in 16.5 overs.
In another game, Kenya defeated Malaysia by 38 runs.