Five-star Ahmed Raza leads UAE to T20 World Cup 2022 after victory over Nepal

National team book trip to Australia after sealing qualification in Oman on Tuesday

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The UAE have booked a trip to the T20 World Cup in Australia after beating Nepal in Muscat.

Ahmed Raza’s side beat their familiar rivals by 68 runs in the semi-final of the qualifying event on Tuesday.

It means the national team will be heading back to the global stage for the first time in seven years, and for just the fourth time in history.

They played at the 50-over World Cup in 1996 and 2015, and have had one previous appearance at the 20-over version, back in 2014.

In the seminal last-four match against Nepal, Muhammad Waseem set the game up with the bat, before – fittingly – captain Raza applied the finishing touches with the ball.

Waseem scored a neatly-paced half-century, then held three catches – one of which was a stunning, diving boundary effort. Raza later took 5-19 to seal the victory.

After winning the toss and opting to bat, UAE reached 175-7 from their 20 overs. They might have hoped for more while Vriitya Aravind was in the midst of his latest tour de force.

A day earlier, the tournament’s leading run-scorer had hauled UAE through to this semi-final with an extraordinary salvo which brought him 24 off the final over against Bahrain.

Straight away against Nepal, he picked up where he had left off. He blazed 46 from 23 balls before playing back to a googly from Sandeep Lamichhane and being bowled.

UAE were on 72-2 midway through the eighth, though. The scoring rate dipped, though, because of fine bowling and canny captaincy from Lamichhane, allied to the fact Mohammed Usman was scratching around for form.

All the while, Waseem was playing a fine hand. The opener had not been quite at his dynamic best to this point in the competition, but he picked the perfect time to fine form.

Waseem made 70 from 48 balls. It included four sixes, one of which caused a pause in the match between Ireland and Oman on the neighbouring field as the square leg-fielder in that game saw the ball bouncing past him.

He fell to the penultimate ball of the 17th over. Without him or Aravind, UAE were unable to apply a late surge to their overs, but 176 was always likely to prove a challenging chase given the pressure of the stakes they were playing for.

The start UAE made to the defence was ideal. Junaid Siddique first trapped Aasif Sheikh in front, then was on a hat-trick after he had Lokesh Bam caught at point by Waseem off the next delivery.

In the next over, he had in-form Kushal Bhurtel caught at the wicket by Aravind. Nepal failed to recover, and Raza ran through the middle-order and tail with five.

This qualification represents an extraordinary rise from the depths of a corruption crisis which ripped through the sport in the emirates in 2019.

From losing seven senior players to spot-fixing related suspension, Raza’s young side have risen right back to the global stage.

Updated: February 22, 2022, 1:23 PM