The UAE will fly back to Dubai on the back of an impressive preliminary West Asia qualifying campaign that saw them continue their road to reaching the 2020 World Twenty20 in Australia.
Their nine-wicket success against Qatar in Friday’s final not only meant they got their hands on the winners’ trophy but maintained their 100 per cent record in the competition with six wins. They defeated Bahrain, Kuwait, Maldives and Saudi Arabia along the way earlier in the week.
There’s still a long way before they can even think about joining the big boys in the global showpiece event but with the opening phase of the qualifiers done, we look at why there are plenty of positives to take from Kuwait City.
LIVING UP TO EXPECTATIONS
On paper, the UAE were strong favourites to clinch one of the three qualification berths and they lived up to that billing in all their six matches. It had almost been a year since the national team played the shortest format but with various T20 competitions in the domestic circuit, the lack of matches didn’t pose a problem. Coach Dougie Brown stressed the importance of ‘dominating’ and they did exactly that with winning margins of four-wickets (Qatar), seven-wickets (Saudi Arabia), 51-runs (Bahrain), 43-runs (Maldives) and 86-runs (Kuwait).
With the first phase done, attention will now turn to Asia Qualifiers where even bigger tests await. A fixture against Nepal seems certain, providing the Asian side qualify from their Eastern Regional tournament in October. But the UAE can be encouraged by the fact they beat them in their last meeting at the Division Two World Cricket League final, and as such, would fancy their chances of claiming the top two spots.
IMPLEMENTING YOUNGSTERS INTO THE SQUAD
Prior to the trip to Kuwait, the last time Fahad Nawaz donned the national jersey in a competitive match was during the Under-19 Asia Cup last October when he skippered the team to qualification in Malaysia.
With such promise and highly-regarded in the set-up, the 18-year-old was given a chance to show what he’s made of with a place in the squad. He didn’t disappoint by taking four wickets in his two matches.
Brown suggested the importance of grooming upcoming players into the senior team for not only their personal development but for extra competition. With the UAE fortunate to have many young, talented cricketers in their books at Under-16 and Under-19 levels, expect more to follow in Nawaz’s footsteps.
MOHAMMED NAVEED AND ROHAN MUSTAFA LEAD BY EXAMPLE
With Shaiman Anwar and Ahmed Raza rested for the tour, Mohammad Naveed and captain Rohan Mustafa were the most experienced members in the squad and not for the first time, they made their presence count with consistent performances.
Mustafa dropped down to No.3 in the batting order but that didn’t stop him from scoring 71 in the first match. He also claimed 10 wickets in the competition and scooped the Player of the Tournament and Best Batsman accolades, again displaying his ability to lead from the front.
For Naveed, he showed why he sits inside the top-10 ICC bowlers in the format by taking 12 scalps. The pacer was on top of his game, picking up scalps in each of his five games, inclusive of three three wicket-hauls.
The UAE ended their 2020 World Twenty20 West Asia preliminary qualifying campaign on a winning note as they thrashed Qatar by nine wickets in Friday’s final.
Both sides were already assured of a place in the Asia Qualifiers before a ball was bowled after finishing in the top two places in the group.
However, the UAE showed why they topped the standings with five consecutive wins with another dominant display in Kuwait.
Qatar posted 115 in their 20 overs after Mohammad Naveed (3-22) and Zahoor Khan (3-16) impressed with the ball, but the UAE were in always in control of their chase.
Ashfaq Ahmed (26) and wicket-keeper Ghulam Shabbir, who replaced Chirag Suri at the top of the innings, gave the team a solid start with a half-century stand.
Ahmed fell but Shabbir continued to pile on the runs and ended unbeaten on 63.
The 32-year-old was in fine form with the bat as he smashed eight boundaries and one six in his 46 deliveries.
At the other end, captain Rohan Mustafa was 30 not out as UAE reached their target with ease in the 15th over.
The result means the UAE ended the West Asia tournament with a 100 per cent record after beating Qatar, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain in the last seven days.
Among the players to impress for the UAE was youngster Fahad Nawaz, who had a memorable campaign in Kuwait.
The 18-year-old took four wickets in his two games including on his debut.
“It’s been a great learning experience for me,” he said.
“Being with the senior guys and competing with them was great and has boosted my confidence and my overall game.”
Joining Qatar and the UAE in the Asia Qualifiers – the next stage of the 2020 World Twenty20 qualifying are Kuwait who defeated Saudi Arabia by five runs earlier on Friday.
The trio will face the three best sides of Asia’s Eastern nations in the Asia Qualifiers.
The Asian East qualifiers that will be played in October, consists of Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore, Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Thailand.
Their 86-run win against hosts Kuwait was their fifth consecutive victory in the six-team tournament.
Prior to the match, head coach Dougie Brown challenged his players to end the competition on a high after booking their place in the Asia Qualifiers following their fourth consecutive victory against the Maldives on Tuesday.
And the UAE took Brown’s words on board with a dominant performance against the hosts. Openers Suri and Ashfaq Ahmed made a blistering start by putting on a 63-run stand in just five overs before the latter fell for 36.
While Mustafa (31) and Muhammad Usman (26) weighed in, it was Suri who kept piling the runs at a fast-rate and he ended up with 86.
The 22-year-old’s knock came from 52 deliveries, including six fours and five sixes as the UAE reached 201-4 – their highest T20 total in the tournament.
The target proved to be too much for the hosts with only three batsmen reaching double figures. Mustafa took 3-18, while Naveed finished with 3-20 as Kuwait reached 115-8.