Kai Smith century sets tone for UAE in crushing win over PNG ahead of U19 World Cup

Wicketkeeper cracks 145 off 139 balls as side make bright start to preparations in St Kitts

UAE batsman Kai Smith struck 145 off 139 balls against Papua New Guinea. Chris Whiteoak/ The National

UAE made bold statement of intent ahead of the Under-19 World Cup in the West Indies by thrashing Papua New Guinea by 250 runs in their opening warm up match in St Kitts.

Kai Smith paved the way for the landslide win with an innings worth 145 in 139 balls.

The Dubai-born 17-year-old opener shared in three notable partnerships, as the UAE side amassed 321-5 from their 50 overs in Bassettere.

His opening stand with Shival Bawa was worth 72. Dhruv Parashar then made 52 in an alliance worth 133 for the second wicket, before Smith put on 77 with Punya Mehra, who made a rapid 41, for the third.

Faced with such a daunting target, PNG wilted against the UAE’s bowlers. Ali Naseer led the way with the new ball, sending down three maidens in his five over opening burst.

Left-arm spinners Nilansh Keswani and Aayan Afzal Khan then proceeded to run through the PNG line up. Keswani took 2-16, while Aayan – who only turned 16 in November – took 3-10, as PNG were fired out for 71.

It was a positive start for a UAE side who are looking to improve on their showing at the 2020 U19 World Cup in South Africa, where they were unable to make it out of the group stage.

Their plans for this competition have been altered slightly, due the travel chaos faced by Afghanistan. The Afghans had been due to be the next warm up opposition for the UAE.

However, while the UAE have been in the Caribbean since last week, Afghanistan have been held up by visa issues.

The side have been in Dubai, where they played in the U19 Asia Cup last month, awaiting clearance to transit the UK. That has now been granted, but they will be short on time to acclimatise ahead of the competition’s start.

The UAE will play their first fixture when they face Canada in St Kitts on Sunday. They then have pool-stage fixtures against England and Bangladesh, the defending champions.

Updated: January 11th 2022, 12:02 PM