Ali Naseer stokes UAE’s hopes of upset against England at U19 World Cup

All-rounder’s excellence in opening win over Canada prompts optimism before tougher tests to follow

Ali Naseer will be vital to UAE hopes of causing an England upset. Chris Whiteoak/ The National
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England’s reputation in cricket might be being buffeted from all directions at present, given their abysmal display in the Ashes and the ensuing late night drinks that required police intervention.

But when UAE meet them in the Under 19 World Cup in the Caribbean on Thursday, the players will be under no illusions they are going up against giants of the sport.

U19 WORLD CUP, WEST INDIES

UAE group fixtures (all in St Kitts)

  • Saturday 15 January: UAE beat Canada by 49 runs
  • Thursday 20 January: v England
  • Saturday 22 January: v Bangladesh

UAE squad:

Alishan Sharafu (captain), Shival Bawa, Jash Giyanani, Sailles
Jaishankar, Nilansh Keswani, Aayan Khan, Punya Mehra, Ali Naseer, Ronak Panoly,
Dhruv Parashar, Vinayak Raghavan, Soorya Sathish, Aryansh Sharma, Adithya
Shetty, Kai Smith

England are, of course, the reigning 50 over world champions in senior cricket. And their age-group side trounced the defending U19 champions, Bangladesh, in their tournament opener on Sunday.

UAE’s players, though, are sanguine about their prospects. They started the competition in convincing fashion themselves, with a comfortable win over Canada.

That 49-run win in St Kitts was headlined by a player whose skills have been likened to those of Ben Stokes, the great England all-rounder.

“Ben Stokes has been one of my idols for a while now,” said Ali Naseer, who blazed 73 from 50 balls against Canada, and also opens the bowling for UAE.

“He bowls high 130kph and is a very aggressive batsman. My aim is to replicate what Stokes does and be a match winner.”

Naseer is one of nine ICC Academy players in the 15-man squad at the World Cup. The academy’s coach, Qasim Ali, was unsurprised by his charge’s excellence in the tournament opener.

“The way he plays is similar to Stokes in that he is quite fearless with the ball and his temperament is quite aggressive,” Qasim said.

“He has some pace, even if an injury last year did hamper his pace development slightly. As a batter, he is an aggressive left-handed middle-order player with a range of shots.

“He has been working on batting against spin, as that is predominantly what he will be facing in the back end of games, focusing on power-hitting and hitting the ball out of the park.

“It was no surprise for me that [against Canada] he hit sixes for fun.”

Naseer is well aware the challenge will be more acute against England, but he echoed the sentiments of his colleague Kai Smith in suggesting UAE will play without fear.

“Playing against England will come with its challenges as they are a Test-playing nation,” Naseer said.

“However our mindset is to play the ball on its merit and not look at the name.

“Our next two matches are against two Test-playing nations so of course there will be nerves involved but the players are excited.”

Ali Naseer smashed 73 off 50 balls in UAE's 49-run won over Canada. Photo: ICC

Naseer, who attends Gems FirstPoint School, The Villa, was born in Karachi and has lived in Dubai since he was four years old.

He says his side were encouraged by the way they started the tournament, but they are aware of where they need to improve against England and Bangladesh.

“It’s always great to get a win, especially in an Under 19 World Cup,” he said.

“The feeling was unmatched more so as I was able to contribute to my teams success. My team and I were definitely satisfied with the result.

“I think scoring 285 runs has given our batting a lot of confidence as we haven’t had the best of time in terms of batting in the recent past.

“As a batting unit if we can keep wickets in hand against England then we should be able to get a good score to defend.

“In terms of bowling we need to ensure that we are tight in the middle overs and ensure that we don’t leak runs in the last powerplay."

Updated: January 19, 2022, 12:36 PM
U19 WORLD CUP, WEST INDIES

UAE group fixtures (all in St Kitts)

  • Saturday 15 January: UAE beat Canada by 49 runs
  • Thursday 20 January: v England
  • Saturday 22 January: v Bangladesh

UAE squad:

Alishan Sharafu (captain), Shival Bawa, Jash Giyanani, Sailles
Jaishankar, Nilansh Keswani, Aayan Khan, Punya Mehra, Ali Naseer, Ronak Panoly,
Dhruv Parashar, Vinayak Raghavan, Soorya Sathish, Aryansh Sharma, Adithya
Shetty, Kai Smith