MUSCAT, Feb 26 - UAE rose from the ashes after being dismissed for 122 by a charged up Qatar to bowl and field like a champion that never say die, winning the semifinal by 28 runs eventually. In the process, UAE also set up what is sure to be an exciting final against Kuwait which was too good for Bahrain in its 87-run victory in the other semifinal here at OC Turf grounds on Wednesday.
Unbeaten, in-form and exhibiting amazing energy, UAE clearly looked like the team of the tournament it has been, overcoming yet another challenge from a GCC side that fought in the first half with the ball but faded in the second with the bat before falling by the wayside for just 94 runs.
“Qatar bowled exceptionally well to bowl us for just 122. We saw how well they played against Oman. They played amazing cricket throughout the tournament but one team had to go through and we are glad that we were able to fight back and win today,” said Ahmed Raza, the UAE captain.
“It was a low-scoring game but it was a perfect wicket for white ball cricket. You bowl well and you get credit for that. Once you are in as a batsman, there are a lot of runs in it for you. A lot of credit should go to Oman Cricket for providing great pitches for cricket,” he added.
“Looking at the back end of the tournament, the final is going to be played on a fifth day wicket and no matter how hard you try the square is going to be a bit dry and if you are a decent spinner and bowl smartly, there is a lot in these wickets for you,” said Raza.
The UAE captain expects a closely fought final against Kuwait on Thursday.
“Kuwait is a very good side and playing them on Turf 1, which is full of runs is going to be very exciting. However, we have a slight edge because we played and beat them in the group game,” he added.
Kuwait captain Mohammed Aslam Nawfer said his team was looking forward to the final and they had their plans to beat UAE.
“UAE is a top side in the region and we are expecting a great final tomorrow. We have prepared hard for this tournament and we are very keen to give a good account of our team. We know some of their batsmen are in great form and we will be looking to dislodge their openers early, particularly Rohan Mustafa who is a very good batsman. Getting his wicket early will be our main focus,” said Nawfer.
UAE opener Chirag Suri stood tall amid the ruins, scoring a valuable 38 off 31 to lend a small UAE total some weight. Others simply could not stand up to the seaming deliveries of Iqbal Hussain, who picked up four wickets, and Muhammed Nadeem, who claimed three.
Out to defend a small total, UAE bowled with big hearts, keeping Qatar on the back foot by reducing it to 18 for 4 inside the first seven overs. It was an arduous struggle for runs from here as UAE continued to exert relentless pressure through its pacemen taking wickets and spinners bowling dot balls. Qatar finally caved in for 94 with only Tamoor Sajjad scoring a fighting 29. Muhammed Junaid Siddiqui was adjudged player of the match for his wonderful four wickets for only 12 runs. Zahoor Khan and captain Ahmed Raza bowled equally well, taking three and two wickets respectively.
On OC Turf 1, batting on a wicket that looked full of runs, Kuwait showed its full potential by posting a massive total on the board, scoring 210 for 4 in 20 overs. Prolific opener Ravija Sundaruwan led the way with another masterful 67 that laid the foundation for other batsmen to free their arms. While Usman Patel struck a lovely 58, it was Aphsal Ashraf who set the ground on fire with his amazing strokeplay, smashing an unbeaten 45 that included five hits over the ropes.
Looking like a shadow of the side that beat Qatar to reach the semifinals, Bahrain failed to mount any challenge and was shot out for a dismal 123 in the 17th over. Kuwait captain Mohammed Aslam Nawfer picked up 4 for 23 whereas Mohammed Ansar bagged 3 for 27.
Brief scores: UAE 122 all out in 18.4 overs (Chirag Suri 38 – 4x4, 1x6, Vriitya Aravind 18 – 2x4, Sultan Ahmed 18 – 1x4, 1x6. Iqbal Hussain 4-16, Muhammed Nadeem 3-27, Gayab Buddika 2-21) beat Qatar 94 all out in 20 overs (Tamoor Sajjad 29 – 4x4, Iqbal Hussain 19 – 2x4. Muhammed Junaid Siddiqui 4-12, Zahoor Khan 3-17, Ahmed Raza 2-21) by 28 runs.
Player of the Match: Muhammed Junaid Siddiqui (UAE).
Brief scores: Kuwait 210 for 4 in 20 overs (Ravija Sandaruwan 67 – 8x4, 3x6, Usman Patel 58 – 10x4, Aphsal Ashraf 45 not out – 1x4, 5x6, Muhammed Amin 32 – 1x4, 2x6. Abdul Majid 1-21) thrashed Bahrain 123 all out in 16.5 overs (Fiaz Ahmed 30 – 3x6, Mohammed Sameer 28 – 4x4, 1x6, Junaid Aziz 22 – 2x4, 1x6. Mohammed Aslam Nawfer 4-23, Mohammed Ansar 3-27, Sayed Monib 2-17) by 87 runs.
Player of the Match: Mohammed Aslam Nawfer (Kuwait).
Thursday’s Final: UAE vs Kuwait at OC Turf 1 at 9.30 am.