The UAE’s young cricketers created history Monday with a comprehensive eight-wicket victory over Ireland to win the Under 19 World Cup plate final.
The spinners came to the fore at the Queen's Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad to take all but one wicket to dismiss Ireland for 122. Kai Smith, 49, and Punya Mehra, 48 not out, then took the national team over the line in just 26 overs.
Man-of-the-match Mehra finished the game in style by hoisting Matthew Humphreys for six to trigger wild celebrations in the UAE camp.
The success comes days after the UAE thumped hosts West Indies by 82 runs to secure a place in Monday's final.
“It was a fantastic team effort all through the tournament, and everyone here, the players and coaching staff, are over the moon with this remarkable achievement,” UAE captain Alishan Sharafu told The National.
“To win against the West Indies in the semi-final and win the Plate final is the best cricketing moment for everyone in our team. This result should serve as a platform for the youngsters to make it to the UAE age-group teams in the years to come.”
Ireland's decision to take first lease of the wicket backfired spectacularly as they were three men down for only 27 runs. They struggkled to get a foothold as Sharafu rotated his six bowlers to great effect.
Ali Nasser provided the early break when he had Nathan McGuire caught Dhruv Parashar (10) before a double strike from spinner Jash Giyanani, who returned with two for 12 from six overs.
Thereafter, UAE spinners Adhitya Shetty (2-33 from 9.3 overs), Aayan Afzal Khan (1-21 from 10) and Parashar (2-15 from 7) ran through the Ireland batting.
They pulled off a nerve-racking one-wicket win over Uganda before a stunning victory over the West Indies to reach the final.
“We had a rough road against Uganda that really shook us up and then the win against the West Indies doubled our confidence going into the final,” Sharafu, who was playing in his second U19 World Cup, added.
Sharafu, who turned 19 on January 10, began his cricketing journey at 10 and has already debuted for the UAE senior national team in one ODI against Ireland and played in six T20 Internationals.
There will be no time to rest for Sharafu. He is due to link up with the senior national team for a three-match ODI series against Oman starting from February 5, three days after the U19s are due to land back in Dubai.
“Cricket in the UAE, particularly among the young, has come a long way, with the advent of the Emirates Cricket Board’s Academies League. The youngsters get to play a lot of competitive matches and some of those get early opportunities to play in the men’s competitions.”