Photo Credit: ICC
UAE’s opener Muhammad Waseem reserved his best for the final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier A, supported by Dream 11, at Al Amerat on Thursday.
Waseem’s swashbuckling knock of 112 powered UAE to a seven-wicket win over Ireland with eight balls to spare. Both the teams had already confirmed their tickets for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia later this year on Tuesday.
UAE’s victory confirmed their spot in Group 1 of the First Round in Australia. They join Sri Lanka and Namibia and will be joined by runner-up in Qualifier B that will be played in Zimbabwe in June.
Ireland join West Indies and Scotland in Group 2 of the First Round. They will be joined by the Qualifier B winner.
Waseem’s century was a sheer example of classy stroke play and the 28-year-old’s rampaging innings was laced with 7 fours and an equal number of maximums.
Having restricted Ireland, the only Full Member nation at the Qualifiers, to 159, UAE stuttered in the chase as Joshua Little made early inroads. Little removed Chirag Suri and the player in form, Vriitya Aravind, in a space of three balls as UAE were 12/2.
Aravind’s prize wicket raised the hopes of Ireland as the 19-year old had been the run-machine in the tournament. Despite the golden duck, Aravind finished as the tournament’s highest run-getter with 267.
However, UAE had enough fuel in their tank and Waseem stamped his credentials as another player to keep an eye on ahead. Waseem’s ton, his second against Ireland, took him close to Aravind’s total runs as he finished with 241. The previous century was struck in Dubai last year in October.
Along with the experienced all-rounder Rohan Mustafa (37 not out), Waseem took the rival attack to the cleaners with some clean hitting around the park. Their 141-run stand almost got them the win before Waseem departed in the 18thover with UAE needing just six off 12. They ended at 160/3 in 18.4 overs.
The win stamped the dominance of UAE over Ireland in recent times as they recorded their fifth win on the trot. UAE’s winning streak began in October 2021 in Dubai.
Harry Tector struck a half-century to spare Ireland of blushes after they were reduced to 19/3 in just 3.2 overs. Ireland openers, Paul Stirling and skipper Andrew Balbirnie, failed for the second match in succession. Between the dismissals of the pair, Gareth Delany, top-scorer in Ireland’s semi-final win against Oman, was removed by Kashif Daud.
UAE bowlers were aided by some brilliant ground fielding as a couple of eye-catching catches were held.
Tector and Lorcan Tucker orchestrated the revival with a 43-run partnership. The two rotated the strikes and capitalised on the loose balls as Ireland inched cautiously towards the halfway stage.
The two targeted leg-spinner Karthik Meiyappan in his first over by taking 10. The leggie gave away 10 more in his second but had the last laugh as he had Tucker caught in the deep.
Basil Hameed’s first ball of the match shattered the stumps of Andy McBrine and a over later Simi Singh was adjudged leg-before to Junaid Siddique. Ireland were in real trouble with 67-6.
Shane Getkate and Tector saw through the next five without further damage and set themselves up for some big hits in death overs.
Those plans were thrown in disarray as Zahoor Khan returned for his second spell to gobble up both the set batters – Tector and Getkate in the 17th. Getkate was cleaned up for a 19-ball 30, which was studded with 3 maximums and Tector’s knock ended four balls later. Tector’s 50 included 3 sixes and 1 four.
Mark Adair and Barry McCarthy used their long handle efficiently in death overs to hammer down 26 off the next two overs. Rohan Mustafa removed them both to break the crucial 34-run late partnership in the final over. Mustafa and Khan picked up three wickets each for the UAE.
The cameos from Adair (15-ball 20) and McCarthy’s (6-ball 15) got Ireland to a respectable total, though it didn’t prove to be enough.
Andrew Balbirnie, Ireland Captain said: “They (UAE) played some really good cricket. I think they have been the best side over this competition so congrats to them. We are disappointed because we scraped through to a really good total again. We had a really good Powerplay as well but someone scores a 100 at a strike rate of 200, it is really hard to stop and that was the difference today.
“I don’t think 159 was enough. It was a pretty good wicket. Start of the toss we probably wanted a bit more than that. Our middle to late order has been outstanding and got us to where we are now. We have lot of positive aspects with how the week has gone.We have qualified which was the main thing at the start of it. When you play a one-off final, you want to come out holding the trophy but I think the best team today won.”
On the World Cup qualification, Balbirnie said: “We are really happy to have qualified and are looking forward to going to Australia. A really nice place to play cricket, a few of us have been before. We have a lot to do before that so we are excited for that challenge and for the big summer ahead.”
Ahmed Raza, UAE captain said: “Vrittya [Aravind] is a special kid. I have run out of superlatives for him. Because of him we are here as champions. We lost that game against Bahrain but we could have lost our place in the tournament as well so all thanks to him.
“This side is special. We have gelled over the past 6 months and it was really hurtful when the World Cup was happening back home and we weren’t a part of it. We spoke about not letting such an opportunity pass us by. The players showed a lot of character throughout the tournament. Different players put their hands up when the chips were down and today it was Waseem.”
Muhammad Waseem, Player of the Match said: “Thanks to my team and my coaches. They are always backing me up if I’m scoring or even if I’m not scoring. My coach and captain told me that if I play the full innings I can definitely make some runs and that proved right.”
Vrittya Aravind, Player of the Tournament, said: “I don’t mind that I didn’t score today. The team won and we qualified for the World Cup so can’t ask for more. Every senior player over here has supported not just me but all the youngsters. That is where we get the confidence to perform so all thanks to them.”
Nepal finish third
Nepal defeated Oman by 9 wickets in the third place play-off match on Thursday.
Electing to bat first after winning the toss, Oman could only manage 87/9 at the end of 20 overs – their second lowest total in T20 Internationals.
Shot selection was collectively poor, with none of the batsmen looking in good nick.
But for all of Oman’s shortcomings Nepal were excellent in the field. They looked full well like the side that had restricted its opponents to under 100 runs in 3 of 4 matches before this one.
With an ultra-tight line and length, the bowlers kept the Omani batters on a tight leash. Just 5 boundaries were conceded in the entire first innings.
There were no easy singles or doubles allowed too. This induced false attempts at rotating strike to keep the scoreboard moving, an effort that led to two run-outs and multiple misunderstandings between the batsmen.
Captain Sandeep Lamichanne led from the front for Nepal. He picked up 3 wickets for 13 runs in his 4 overs. The leg-spinner, who was named the player of the match, also finished as the tournament’s highest wicket-taker with 12.
With most of the Omani batsmen falling cheaply, the onus to score big once again fell on captain Zeeshan Maqsood’s shoulders. He gave it a go and top scored with a 28-ball 21. Ayaan Khan, Naseem Khushi and Kaleemullah were the other batsmen to reach double figures.
In response, Nepal chased the target down with 22 balls to spare.
Kushal Bhurtel and Aasif Sheikh build a 50-run opening partnership that turned the game from a potential contest to an impending formality.
Aasif was dismissed in the 8th over but Kushal played on until the end, top scoring with an elegant half-century. Aarif Sheikh kept him company for the remainder of the run-chase and hit the winning boundary that sealed a well-deserved victory for Nepal.
Zeeshan Maqsood, Oman Captain said: “We didn’t play well over this one and a half month period. In the ODIs,in the Quadrangular series and in this tournament as well. We have to do a lot of work on the batting side, that is what keeps letting us down. But, we have faith in the boys that they will be able to come out of this bad period and perform better.”
Sandeep Lamichhane, Nepal Captain said: “Coming to today’s game after the heartbreak of missing on the World Cup spot, it was again a dominant kind of character shown by the boys. Credit goes to Kushal Bhurtel for the way he took the innings from the first over until the end. I’m very happy with this win overall. Nepal cricket has a lot of potential now, a lot of young talent and I’m looking forward to the future.”