‘Sensational’ Aayan Afzal Khan inspires UAE to historic win over West Indies

Sixteen-year-old allrounder’s defiant innings sparks remarkable comeback for Covid-hit side in plate semi-final of Under 19 World Cup

UAE batsman Aayan Khan plays a shot as Rivaldo Clarke of West Indies keeps during the ICC U19 Men's Cricket World Cup Plate semi-final 1 at Queen's Park Oval on January 28, 2022. Photo: ICC
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The country’s leading age-group players produced one of the greatest wins in the history of UAE cricket after their Covid-hit side beat West Indies on home soil in the Under 19 World Cup.

Aayan Afzal Khan, the prodigiously talented allrounder who only turned 16 in November, played the defining knock in an extraordinary comeback win in Trinidad.

The side from the Caribbean, who have won the World Cup twice at senior level and the age-group version as recently as 2016, were heavy favourites going into the game.

That assessment appeared well founded when the home side reduced UAE to 26 for four within 11 overs.

That brought Aayan to the crease, promoted in the order by a series of events which had deprived the side of senior players. Front-line spinners Nilansh Keswani and Adithya Shetty were among the absentees, as UAE were hit by separate cases of both Covid and food poisoning.

What followed was little short of “sensational,” to use the words of Mudassar Nazar, the UAE coach.

Aayan’s innings of 93, which included a stand worth 103 with Shival Bawa for the seventh wicket, carried the national team to a total of 224 for nine from their 50 overs.

In reply, the West Indies did not get close. While Aayan – whose left-arm spin might have been crucial in the defence - spent much of the innings off the field because of heat exhaustion, his colleagues thrived.

Jash Giyanani took three for 21, and Dhruv Parashar four for 30. Fittingly, after receiving glucose in a pitchside ambulance, Aayan was able to return to the fray, and picked up the wicket which sealed the 82-run win.

“It feels amazing to have beaten a Test nation, especially West Indies on their home soil,” said Alishan Sharafu, the UAE captain.

“I think the boys believed in themselves. We played as a team and grabbed every opportunity to contribute.

“I am really proud of them, and hopefully we can produce another special performance in the final.”

Matthew Nandu of West Indies is bowled by Jash Giyanani of UAE. Photo: ICC

UAE will now take on the winner of Ireland against Zimbabwe in the plate final on Monday. That leaves them two days to recover from the exertions of the game against West Indies.

“Credit to our support staff for helping out with drinks and support,” Sharafu said of his patched up side.

“We had a few setbacks with some Covid cases and some others unfit, but it was a game of 11 of us against 11 of them. I’m glad we put on a performance to remember and cherish for a long, long time.”

Mudassar, the former Pakistan allrounder, labelled the performance “wonderful” given the circumstances.

“It was an incredible win, especially considering three players were not available due to the virus, including our two frontline spinners,” Mudassar said.

“Both of them [Keswani and Shetty] have huge potential and a great career ahead of them in the game. Given the history of Queens Park Oval for being helpful to spinners, we were fairly confident of beating West Indies provided we could put up a decent total on the board.”

Mudassar lavished praise on Aayan, including for his enthusiasm for getting back on the field after his bout of heat exhaustion and cramp.

“Once promoted in the batting order, Aayan was sensational,” the coach said.

“He guided us through a tough time, then blossomed with Shival Bawa and laid the platform for a historic win.

“Jash gave us a head start with three early wickets. While this was taking place, Aayan was lying in the ambulance van receiving glucose.

“He made a big effort to get back on the field. By then we were racing towards victory. Hats off to these youngsters.”

Updated: January 29, 2022, 4:00 AM