‘Being in such a team is something you can only dream of’ – UAE's Esha Oza

T20 centurion on national side’s stunning run of 18 unbeaten matches as they chase England's international record

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Esha Oza says the UAE national team’s players feel like they are living in a dream after extending their unbeaten run to 18 matches.

Oza scored a century – her second within UAE’s extraordinary sequence of wins – as they crushed Qatar by 153 runs at the ACC Women’s T20 Championship in Malaysia.

It means they have now won 17 of their past 18 matches, with the other being a washout against Oman in the opening match of the tournament, in which they were also well on top.

The victory meant UAE topped their group and will advance to a semi-final against Nepal on Saturday.

If they win that, they will progress to play the likes of India and Pakistan at the Asia Cup, which is scheduled to be played in Bangladesh later this year.

If they were then to win the final, they would match England’s world record of consecutive undefeated games in women's T20 internationals.

England went 20 games without defeat in 2012 – a sequence that also included one abandoned game, and 19 wins besides.

The UAE’s string of wins has been striking because of how dominant they have been in each fixture. The closest an opposition have got to them was against Hong Kong in the second match of the sequence, when they won by 11 runs.

The 153-run win over Qatar in Kuala Lumpur was not even the most crushing result, judged on runs scored.

Back in March, UAE beat Bahrain by 210 runs in Muscat. That was the game in which Oza posted her first T20I century, finishing with 158 not out, which is the second highest score ever recorded in a women’s T20I fixture.

This time around, she hit three sixes and 18 fours as she made 115 from 67 balls.

“It was hot today, and we were looking for lots of boundaries,” Oza, 23, said.

“We wanted to convert the good balls into singles and then hit the bad balls to the boundary.

“The pitch was keeping a little low, but I knew if I backed myself and played a little more on the front foot, if I could time it I would be able to find the boundary.”

In women’s T20Is, only Meg Lanning, Fatuma Kibasu, Danni Wyatt, Beth Mooney and Deandra Dottin had scored two centuries in a career previously.

Oza, who played against a number of those players when she was selected to feature in the FairBreak Invitational recently, was speechless after joining such illustrious company.

“I have no words – it is just an honour,” Oza said. “I will just keep working hard and hopefully I can break more records and make it to the top one day.”

UAE’s run of 17 wins in completed matches equalled the tally of Thailand, whose rise in the sport has partly inspired the national team’s progress in recent times.

“We had been talking about the fact the Oman game had been washed out, other than that, today was our record-breaking game day,” Oza said.

“We talked about that in the morning. Now we are in the semi-finals we know we have to work extra hard to get that record. If we can, it is going to be the best feeling ever.

“We never go out there thinking about records, but we are proud of how we have been doing.

“If you look at seven or eight years back, we weren’t even close to playing like this. Now we have been able to dominate a number of tournaments we have played in.

“Being part of such a team is something you can only dream of – and we are doing that now.”

Updated: June 22, 2022, 3:19 PM