Mohammed Waseem announced his arrival in international cricket with an extraordinary century as UAE claimed a remarkable T20 international series win over Ireland in Dubai.
Waseem debuted last week, at the start of a series of warm-up matches organised to help prepare the likes of Ireland and Namibia for the forthcoming T20 World Cup.
He had been quiet in his first three appearances, yet burst in to form in dramatic fashion to help oversee a resounding seven-wicket win at the ICC Academy.
Thanks to fine bowling by Rohan Mustafa and Zahoor Khan, the Irish were restricted to 134 for five from their 20 overs, on a morning of intense humidity.
Waseem has been a player of great renown in domestic cricket for some time now, and he brought that excellence to bear with a stunning assault on the Irish bowlers.
After reaching three figures, he appeared so shattered he could barely bring himself to get back to his feet after kneeling for a prayer of thanks.
He got back to the crease, and, with a single to win the game, he launched a huge straight six which would have landed on the neighbouring football field had it not hit the top of the net blocking the way.
They started the comeback on Friday when, fuelled by the fighting spirit of Kashif Daud and Basil Hameed, and the new ball skills of debutant Akif Raja, they beat the Irish by 54 runs.
The character of the side even showed up in the final game, too, given the Irish were 85 for no loss in the 12th over, with their star opening pair of Paul Stirling and Kevin O’Brien purring nicely.
Then Mustafa entered the fray. The allrounder has long been one of the country’s most reliable players, but he had seemed crushed by two tough assignments last week.
Mustafa dismissed Stirling and O’Brien in quick succession, on his way to figures of three for 24 from four overs delivered during the slog overs.
He even contributed to the departure of the Ireland captain Andy Balbirnie. The skipper had to retire hurt, and was helped from the field, after suffering a painful blow to his foot while trying to sweep Mustafa.
That was emblematic of a muddled end to the Irish innings, where they stuttered to a close.
From then on, it was all about Waseem, as he hurried the hosts to the victory, to provide the perfect birthday present for captain Ahmed Raza, who was turning 33.
The series win must be bittersweet for the UAE. They have beaten the Irish – a full Test-playing nation – in three out of five matches so far this year. That is further evidence, if it is needed, of the national team’s capabilities in international cricket.
And yet it is the Irish – and not the UAE – who are preparing to play in the T20 World Cup next week.
Stricken by a corruption scandal, which has since seen six players banned for a combined total of 41 years, the national team failed to make it through the qualifying competition two years ago.
Back then, they thought they had missed out on a trip to Australia for the global showpiece. As it has turned out, the consequences of Covid meant the World Cup has been brought to UAE and Oman instead.
Oman will be there. But UAE will be frustrated onlookers instead.