UAE coach Aaqib Javed will ring the changes as his side look to register their first win of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Premier League against Hong Kong.
Having lost to Nepal (by four wickets) and Afghanistan (by 70 runs), Javed admits his team have been disappointing in the 50-over competition – especially in the fielding department where they have dropped 10 catches in two matches.
“Against Hong Kong we will have to play to our potential and can definitely trouble them,” said the 41-year-old ahead of the match in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“I believe we can still improve but we have to be careful because we have to win three or four matches. We will make one or two changes for the game.”
Like the UAE, Hong Kong are winless in the six-team competition after defeats to Oman (by nine runs) and Afghanistan (by six wickets).
But Javed has acknowledged the threat posed by Hong Kong, who recently beat hosts Bangladesh at the World Twenty20 in March.
“Hong Kong are a decent team. Since the last six months they’ve been doing well,” he said. “They did well to qualify for the World Twenty20 and came third in the 50-over World Cup qualification in New Zealand.
"They have good players and skills wise they are very good. Irfan (Ahmed) is the kind of batsman who can excel well individually. They are a very good, balanced side so I think if we want to beat Hong Kong then we have to have a good day and have to bat well and improve our performances.”
Despite being critical of his team’s fielding, Javed is pleased with the batting line-up led by captain Khurram Khan.
“We have three good batsmen – Khurram (Khan), Swapnil (Patil) and Shaiman (Ali). In 50-over games, you have to have some good batsmen and I think we have a decent batting line-up for this competition."
If you’re disappointed there will be no top-class Twenty20 cricket in the UAE now that the Indian Premier League (IPL) is over, then you’re mistaken.
While the likes of Glenn Maxwell, David Miller and Dwayne Smith were smashing the boundaries, some of Pakistan’s former and current players as well as UAE domestic cricketers and Ryan Hinds of West Indies and Charles Coventry of Zimbabwe, have been playing in the Superstars T20 competition in Dubai.
Classed as the biggest domestic competition in the UAE, spectators can watch matches free of charge at the Fairground Oval situated in Dubai Academic City.
Now in its second edition, 16 franchises from UAE, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India are already halfway through the competition with the quarter-final knockout stages to begin from Saturday, May 10 with the final scheduled seven days later.
Matches are sometimes played daily or every two or three days, with weekday games beginning at 19:30, while the double-header on a weekends begins at 16:30.
With Pakistani players absent from the IPL, they have plied their trade in the Superstars competition – won by Wings Ahmedabad last year – which along with the upcoming domestic players in the UAE, has been a success so far.
“There are international Pakistani players here including Kamran Akmal (wicketkeeper) and Khurram Manzoor (Test opener) playing, Afghan players and UAE internationals,” says Rahul Dalwale, Superstars manager.
“At domestic level, there is some of the best talent that is emerging here, some very young players who have played at Under-19 and learning their trade in first-class games. If you are associated with the UAE domestic cricket and know some of the names, then they are playing in this T20 Superstars.”
And the matches are played at a venue that is easily assessible for the spectators, with plenty of space for children to play.
“At the Fairground Oval when people come to the venue, it’s a very English village-like setting. It’s a beautiful ground and although there are no custom-built stands, there’s a lot of grass area outside the boundaries where people can sit and children can play other sports,” says Dalwale.
“Overall the atmosphere is like an English county game and not like an international stadium like in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. There is ample parking, so that is not an issue. Plus, the spectators will have free access to the players (after the match) and some don’t mind opting to sign for autographs and pose for pictures.”
The matches so far have seen a “reasonable” attendance but Dalwale said there will be prizes available to win from quarter-finals onwards.
“The biggest challenge I faced on the UAE cricket circuit is to get the spectators to the ground. Thankfully, the people came in full force at last year’s final, and we had around 800 people watching the game. Because there are some Pakistani and Afghan players here we are expecting some big crowds who will be treated to some fantastic cricket.”
What: Superstars cricket T20
When: On-going until Saturday May 17 (fixtures on website and free admission).
Where: The Fairground Oval, Dubai Men’s College, Dubai Academic City
Amjad Ali fell two runs short of his century as the UAE suffered their second straight defeat in the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Premier League with a 70-run defeat to Afghanistan in Kuala Lumpur.
Chasing Afghanistan’s impressive 302, the UAE were all out for 232 inside 45 overs, leaving the Gulf nation still winless in the six-team competition after losing to Nepal by four wickets in their opener on Thursday.
Saimullah Shenwari (82) top scored for Afghanistan, while Ali (98) was the only batsman to cross 50 in an innings that saw five UAE players reaching double figures.
UAE, coached by Aaqib Javed, will now take on Hong Kong on Sunday aiming to pick up their first points of the competition.
“It was a poor game from us,” Javed told Sport360. “Our fielding was disappointing. We dropped four catches and six yesterday, and if you drop 10 catches in two matches then there’s no chance you can win the game.”
After being put to bat, Afghanistan got off to a good start with Noor Ali Zadran (53) and Usman Ghani (55) providing a 99-run opening stand by the 23rd over.
However, UAE captain Khurram Khan grabbed two wickets as Afghanistan found themselves 124-4.
But the Afghans maintained the runs with Shenwari and Nabi putting on a 125-run partnership off just 99 balls.
Nabi fell in the 47th over when he was caught off Mohammad Naveed. Shenwari carried on, and aided by Shafiqullah (14 not out), the wicketkeeper-batsman helped Afghanistan amass 53 runs in the last 3.5 overs, with Ahmed Raza ending with 2-50.
In reply, Ali put on a 70-run opening stand with Salman Faris (27). When Khurram (28) joined Ali, the opener again dominated in an 86-run fourth wicket stand off 83 balls.
He eventually departed in the 32nd over, falling two short of a century, trapped in front by Rahmat Shah, who eventually finished 5-32.
Krishnachandran Karate, one of five new additions in the team, was left unbeaten on 22, as wickets regularly fell before UAE being eventually bowled out with 33 balls left.