Asia Cup qualification in balance for UAE after shock loss to Kuwait

CP Rizwan's captaincy era starts with stunning capitulation against unheralded Gulf neighbours

The UAE’s tally of 173 for five from their 20 overs should have been beyond Kuwait, but they rallied brilliantly. Photo: ACC
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The UAE made a poor start to life under CP Rizwan’s captaincy after suffering a one-wicket loss to Kuwait in Oman.

The shock defeat in Muscat in the first game of the Asia Cup Qualifier means the national team are now in danger of missing out on fixtures against India and Pakistan on home soil.

The four-team event in Muscat has one place on offer at the main event in Dubai and Sharjah next week.

UAE now face Singapore on Monday and Hong Kong on Wednesday knowing only two victories will do - and even then it might potentially not be enough.

The manner of defeat matched the disrupted build-up to the series, during which Rizwan replaced Ahmed Raza as captain.

Raza had captained the national team in 26 of their 61 T20 internationals until this point.

In matches in which he had led, the side won 18 times. That included a run of eight wins in 10 games, which culminated in their qualification for the T20 World Cup next month.

The fact they have reached that point under his stewardship was all the more remarkable, given the context in which he received the armband.

The Sharjah-born spin-bowler took over a side in crisis, riven by the suspension of a raft of senior players on corruption charges.

He paid for a run of faltering form in a different format. Raza was replaced as captain after the UAE lost three one-day internationals on tour in Scotland this month – and yet has so far been retained in 50-over cricket.

Rizwan’s elevation to the captaincy was equally unforeseen. With an average of 16.66 and a strike-rate of 101 in the format, he had been out of the side since last year, and played no part in the qualifying process for the World Cup. He also has little captaincy experience of which to speak.

The decision to replace Raza with Rizwan in the day’s turnaround between the tour of Scotland and that of Oman was therefore a shock one.

It did appear to guarantee Rizwan a benevolent start, though. The UAE are ranked far higher than any of their opponents at the Qualifier in Muscat, with Kuwait, their opening day opponents, 15 places below them in the ICC standings.

Their superiority showed at the start, as Chirag Suri and Muhammad Waseem shared 78 in under nine overs for the first wicket.

Suri and Vriitya Aravind were then reunited at the site of many of their past successes, as they had an alliance worth 81 for the second wicket.

The UAE’s tally of 173 for five from their 20 overs should have been beyond Kuwait, but they rallied brilliantly.

They were well-placed after starting their innings with a 52-run stand for the first wicket.

Although the chase stuttered after Ravija Sandaruwan went for 34, Kuwait refused to be cowed.

They made it across the winning line with a ball to spare, as Mohammed Shafeeq hit the penultimate ball of the game to the boundary rope.

Updated: August 22, 2022, 6:53 AM
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