Having been beaten comprehensively by Oman in their 2020 T20I World Cup Qualifier campaign opener, the UAE leaped into the top spot in Group B with their second victory in as many matches.
The hosts proved too good for Hong Kong at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium as they ran out emphatic victors by eight wickets. An impressive bowling display was at the heart of their win, with Hong Kong restricted to just 116-7 in their 20 overs after electing to bat first in Abu Dhabi.
Hong Kong in free fall with no Anshuman Rath
It is hard to believe this is nearly the same Hong Kong side which gave India a mighty scare in last year’s Asia Cup at the same venue, with Monday’s defeat condemning them to their third loss in as many games.
Having lost the services of skipper Anshuman Rath before the start of the tournament, Hong Hong’s fragile batting unit was shown up once again despite a promising opening stand. Nizakat Khan and Ahsan Abbasi added 40 runs for the first wicket but the team failed to capitalise on that start with UAE’s bowlers being tough to get away.
There were further contributions from the top-order with Hong Kong advancing to 93-2 at one stage, but a late collapse ensured that they were unable to post a total to challenge the hosts.
1/13 off three overs so far for UAE's Ahmed Raza 👏 👏— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) October 21, 2019
UAE are doing an excellent job of containing the Hong Kong batsmen at the moment.#T20WorldCup | #HKvUAE | FOLLOW ⬇️ https://t.co/4VHK0JJ4JO pic.twitter.com/1Bly33QueI
Rohan Mustafa derails Hong Kong’s innings
At 93-2 in the 15th over, Hong Kong would have hoped to add some vital runs in the death overs but that flourish never came, with Rohan Mustafa coming up with an excellent spell.
The UAE all-rounder had been the side’s star in their recent win over Ireland with four wickets and he added two more scalps to his name on Monday. While medium pacer Waheed Ahmed triggered Hong Kong’s collapse by dismissing their skipper Aizaz Khan, it was Mustafa who tightened the screws with an economical four-over spell that leaked just 17 runs.
Mustafa’s wickets of Haroon Arshad and Scott McKechnie ensured that the visitors would never recover in the death overs with the final 26 deliveries of the innings fetching them just the 23 runs.
Shahzad entertains with explosive 50 as hosts canter to a win
While the manner in which Hong Kong’s batsmen had struggled suggested that the pitch was a slow one, there were no such troubles for the UAE who romped home to a win with almost five overs to spare.
Despite Mustafa falling early in the fourth over of the run-chase, the hosts remained in total command with a 93-run stand for the second wicket between Chirag Suri and Rameez Shahzad.
Suri had failed to convert his two previous starts in the tournament but he made no such mistake on Monday in a 43-ball knock which yielded 44 runs. Shahzad, meanwhile, was more explosive in his unbeaten stay with the 31-year-old crashing three sixes and six fours on the way to registering a maiden T20I half-century.
Their stand knocked the stuffing out of Hong Kong’s bowling attack who found no joy at all on the Abu Dhabi pitch. With two wins out of three, the hosts have now put themselves in an excellent position to book their ticket to Australia next year.
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The UAE ended a turbulent week with a remarkable victory over a full ICC member in Ireland – and match-winner Rohan Mustafa now says the sky is the limit.
Three UAE players – former skipper Mohammed Naveed, Shaiman Anwar and Qadeer Ahmed – were suspended by the ICC last week on anti-corruption charges.
It left the national team reeling just days before the start of the T20 World Cup Qualifier, hosted across Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
To make matters worse, the UAE lost their opening match of the tournament by seven wickets to Oman, before responding in superb style against a Test-playing nation.
What a match for United Arab Emirates' Rohan Mustafa!— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) October 19, 2019
He took four wickets, was involved in three run outs, took a catch and scored a 16-ball 39
UAE stun Ireland in the T20 World Cup Qualifier https://t.co/2N0EOrZ9E7 pic.twitter.com/mbUpViVIjv
Mustafa proved the hero by picking up four wickets before hitting a quick-fire 39 from just 16 balls to complete a five-wicket win over Ireland with 18 balls remaining.
“Ireland are the only Test playing side in this competition and to win over them, especially after losing our first game (against Oman), was a huge result for us,” said the 31-year-old all-rounder.
“In the T20 format, any team can win but this result was a massive confidence boost for the team.
The UAE’s next task is to beat Hong Kong at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Monday (GST: 14:10), knowing their opponents have lost both of their matches so far.
And Mustafa is hoping he can provide a veteran presence once again.
“As a senior player you have to play true to your potential and that’s what I did,” Mustafa added. “Everything worked out pretty well for me and the important thing is that we won.”
The UAE’s campaign in the 2020 T20I World Cup Qualifier started with a defeat in Abu Dhabi with the hosts made to pay for a shoddy batting effort by Oman in a seven-wicket loss.
The provisional suspension of three key players, including captain Mohammed Naveed, for match-fixing had rocked the hosts in the lead up to the tournament, but newly elected skipper Ahmed Raza insists that he has the right men to complete the job in the Qualifier.
“I am very happy with the squad I have and I am very happy with the playing XI I picked today. I am going to back them throughout the tournament and I am going to back every single person who was in that dressing room today,” Raza stated after the loss at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
A horror-start with the bat cost the team dearly in their Group B-campaign opener with the early loss of three wickets putting them on the back-foot straightaway. All-rounder Rohan Mustafa, Rameez Shahzad and Muhammad Usman attempted to repair the damage in the middle overs, but their low scoring-rate did the side no favours.
Ultimately, the hosts could muster just a paltry 108-9 in their 20 overs after being made to bat first. But the UAE skipper refused to pin the blame on the middle-order batsmen.
“Look if you lose three wickets in the first six overs, the batsmen coming in are going to bat like that. It is just that the partnership (Mustafa-Shahzad) did not kick on and that is why we are talking about it,” explained Raza.
“It was the same partnership which won us the game against Scotland in the warm-up. When you lose three quick wickets in the powerplay, that is how you expect any batsman to bat. You can’t go all guns blazing at that stage and get all out in 15 overs.”
Raza’s Oman counterpart Zeeshan Maqsood was delighted with the winning start generated by his men and he expects UAE to respond positively to Friday’s loss.
“We know the UAE can play better (than Friday’s clash). They are a good team and have plenty of experience,” the winning skipper stated.
The hosts have no time to mop with games coming in thick and fast in the World Cup Qualifier. They will be in action once again on Saturday in Abu Dhabi against a formidable Ireland side who started their campaign with an emphatic win over Hong Kong.
Raza believes the lack of gap days between matches is a boon for his side after a comprehensive loss in the campaign opener.
“I think it is better that they (games) are coming so thick and fast. You don’t want to have two to three days off after a loss. It is good that we can put today’s performance aside and begin again tomorrow,” he stated.
The morale, Raza insists, remains high in the team dressing room despite the recent controversies and loss to Oman.
“The morale is high, it’s a global event after all. We just have to move on from a loss, we still have five more games to look forward to. In a global event, you never know what is going to happen. But you also don’t want to peak right at the start of the tournament,” the UAE skipper concluded.