Junaid Siddique heroics in vain as UAE freeze on T20 World Cup opening night

National team fall to three-wicket loss to Netherlands in Geelong

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They had waited forever for this. It had been 2,772 days since the UAE had last played in a World Cup.

Not one of the 15 players who have made the trip to Australia for this T20 World Cup were involved back then.

It is their dream, their well-earned shot at the big time. Then, when the curtain came up on their first opportunity to play on cricket’s biggest stage, half of the side froze.

Not just physically, either. By the time the second innings started against the Netherlands in Geelong, a port city that is Victoria’s second largest after Melbourne, the temperature was eight degrees.

In the game that had gone before, 16,407 of the seats had been filled, mainly by partying Sri Lankans – until their spirit was punctured by a shock loss to Namibia.

After that, almost everyone – bar a large group of the friends and family of Scott Edwards, the Melbourne-raised captain of the Netherlands - traipsed home dejected.

Those hardy souls who did stay on scarcely had much to warm the cockles, after the UAE won the toss and elected to bat.

As early as the fourth over, they made their feelings known. With the UAE on seven for no loss at that point in time, someone from the stands bellowed: “Get on with it.”

At least Muhammad Waseem responded. He hit the next two balls over the boundary rope for six. Then immediately, he was becalmed again.

So was everyone else, as the UAE toiled to 111 for eight, thanks to canny bowling by Bas de Leede, Fred Klaasen and Tim Pringle.

Of the batters, only one – Kashif Daud – scored in excess of a run a ball. The UAE might be wearing a vivid kit for this competition, but they had the colour totally sapped from their batting.

If the UAE want excuses, there are plenty to cling to. First-night nerves. The fact they are playing on a drop-in wicket for the first time.

Also, there were the disorientating effect of the narrow dimensions of the ground. Kardinia Park is the home venue of Geelong Cats, the Australian Rules football team who are the current AFL champions.

They are known for having home ground advantage due to the quirks of the field, which often leads to the opposition kicking the ball out at the side of the field with greater regularity than is usual.

How they took it to the final over, even though they had been given so little to work with, was a tribute to the spirit of their bowlers, chief among them Junaid Siddique.

The fast bowler was lion-hearted in the face of the inevitable. He might have turned a game that had seemed lost in his side’s favour, too, with a little luck.

He was handed the ball to bowl the 14th over. The Netherlands were 76 for four at that point in time, and – with a target set at just 112 – on cruise control.

Then Siddique trapped Tom Cooper in front of the stumps. Two balls later, he castled Roelof van der Merwe. Had CP Rizwan not grassed an easy catch, his double-wicket maiden would have been a triple.

In the end, his heroics counted for little. The Netherlands were left with six to get off the last over. They managed it with a ball to spare.

Updated: October 16, 2022, 11:55 AM
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