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There’s no reason to panic for UAE after missing out on Asia Cup qualification

It's not all doom and gloom for Dougie Brown's side as there were plenty of positives to take from Malaysia

Denzil Pinto 2018/09/07

UAE’s dream of playing Pakistan and India on home soil in the Asia Cup is over as Dougie Brown’s side lost by two wickets to Hong Kong in the Qualifier final on Thursday.

Only one berth was available for the main stage which takes place in Dubai and Abu Dhabi from September 15, and, for the second time in five days, Hong Kong triumphed against the UAE when they chased 176 in a rain-hit game in Kuala Lumpur.

With the tournament done and dusted, here are the takeaways from UAE’s participation in Malaysia.

NO NEED TO PANIC

Despite not achieving their objective of qualification, the national team shouldn’t be majorly worried. On paper, the UAE were strong favourites to reach the main competition given they were the highest-ranked nation in the six-team tournament. But as the results have shown in the last 11 days, it’s about how the team plays on that day. Four wins in six games (including topping the group standings) as well as scoring more than 1,000 runs scored is just one positive the UAE can take from Kuala Lumpur, while more importantly, there’s still a lot of quality at Brown’s disposal.

The former Warwickshire coach lauded his players’ efforts throughout the tournament for the way they played and rightly so. It’s unclear when the players will be donning the national colours again but whether that is later this year or in 2019, expect the players to bounce back.

AHMED RAZA, CHIRAG SURI AND ASHFAQ AHMED SHINE

Having made his international debut way back in April 2006 as a 17-year-old, Ahmed Raza is still going strong and more importantly still producing the goods. The left-arm spinner is one of the most experienced members in the squad alongside captain Rohan Mustafa, pacer Mohammad Naveed and batsman Shaiman Anwar. Rested for the pre-Asia World Twenty20 Qualifiers in April, his displays in Malaysia were evidence of how valuable he is. In the six games he played, he finished as the highest wicket-taker with 16 scalps while going at just 3.86 runs per over. It wasn’t enough to help the UAE reach the Asia Cup but his efforts saw him named Man of the Series.

At the crease, openers Chirag Suri (224) and Ashfaq Ahmed (220) let the bat do the talking as they finished in the top-two run-scorers of the competition. Suri, who broke into the senior team last year, could not have asked for a better start when he scored his maiden century for the senior side – hitting 111 against Singapore before following it up with a 65 against against Nepal. Runs were hard to come by for the remainder of the tournament but the 23-year-old’s 220-run tally shows why he is highly rated.

Another person who continues to impress is Ahmed. He’s barely been in the set-up after making his debut in December 2017 but in the eight months, a string of strong displays has cemented his spot at the top-order. After hitting a half-century against Singapore, Ahmed flourished the final – smashing 79 runs from 51 deliveries which gave the UAE a fighting chance. He already has two fifties in his nine ODIs but given his form, it’s only a matter of time before he reaches triple figures.

ABILITY TO PLAY UNDER PRESSURE

The UAE are no strangers when it comes to pressure. In February, at the World Cricket League Champions Division Two, they defeated hosts Namibia and Oman in must-win matches to keep their hopes of securing ODI status alive before retaining it until 2022 during the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe a month later.

In Malaysia, Brown’s side found themselves in the same position. Their 182-run loss to Hong Kong meant defeat was not an option when they faced Malaysia and Oman to keep their hopes of finishing in the top-two in the table. They did exactly that – firstly beating Malaysia before overcoming an Oman side in a must-win clash in their final group game to book their place in the final.

Although the UAE couldn’t complete the job against Hong Kong in the final (losing with three balls to spare), Mustafa and Co have proved again they have the mindset to deal with such pressure in match situations.

 

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Ahmed Raza Ashfaq Ahmed Chirag Sawlani Mohammad Naveed Shaiman Anwar UAE