Junaid Siddique stars as UAE end World Cup League 2 tri-series with win over Nepal

Fast bowler takes four wickets as national team enjoy successful conclusion to demanding run of matches

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As UAE set the seal on their latest Cricket World Cup League 2 campaign with another comprehensive win over Nepal, Junaid Siddique knelt down and cursed his luck in mock aggravation.

He immediately bounced back to his feet with a broad smile, and went off to celebrate the 99-run success with his teammates.

The fast bowler had just been denied a first five-wicket haul in international cricket when Nepal’s final wicket fell. Even Basil Hameed, who took the last wicket, held his head in his hands in disappointment.

A fifth wicket in the innings would have been due reward for Siddique, whose returns have been excellent during the UAE’s intense run of matches over the past six weeks.

He took 4-23 against Nepal, to take his tally to 13 wickets in the eight matches UAE have had over the past two weeks in the World Cup League. No wonder his teammates were willing him on for one more.

“They just wanted the wickets to go against my name, but at the end of the day, the team won,” Siddique said.

“Personal records are nothing. The team ones are what matter and what we all care about.”

In the course of the last 44 days, UAE have played 19 matches across two formats. In that time they have clinched qualification for the T20 World Cup, and established themselves in second place in the qualifying league for the 50-over version.

Siddique has been a mainstay of the effort, establishing himself as the pace spearhead. Yet again, his fine performance against Nepal was in spite of what had felt like a below par return by the team’s batters.

The home team were defending 203, which was brought about by Rohan Mustafa's second successive half-century, on his 50th ODI appearance. Nepal’s batting malaise continued as they managed just 103, which is their lowest ODI score.

“There is always pressure on the bowlers when the batters have not done well,” Siddique said.

“It is my responsibility, as well as those of [fellow seamers] Kashif [Daud], Zahoor [Khan], and the others to do our job and make us win.

“We are excited about going [to the T20 World Cup] but we know the standard is going up so we can’t afford to stand still. We are trying to win every match, and day by day our standard is going higher. We are happy.”

Over the course of back-to-back tri-series, first against Oman and Namibia, and then against Nepal and Papua New Guinea, UAE won five out of eight matches.

“We are not entirely satisfied, because when we started this series of matches we wanted to win all our matches,” Ahmed Raza, the captain, said.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t make it, but I’m very happy to take six points from it.

“When you play at home you are expected to win, and our team was aiming to take full points. But playing 19 games in the space of two months takes its toll.”

Sandeep Lamichhane, Nepal’s captain, remains at a loss to explain the batting failings of his side. The meek effort of 103 this time around followed a similarly dire 120 when they had faced the same opposition last week.

“Every time we go back to the dressing room and the drawing board, we do talk about the match,” Lamichhane said.

“It is not happening for us right now. Hopefully, whatever mistakes we are making, we can correct them and improve results.

“If you are a professional cricketer, you have no choice. If you lost yesterday, today is another day for you to go and express yourself and improve. That is what my motto is.

“Everyone will be fine. We need to make the effort and push each other.”

Updated: March 21, 2022, 1:57 PM