ILT20: Aayan Afzal Khan seals spectacular Sharjah homecoming with six off Mohammed Nabi

Teenage UAE star trains with Afghanistan great’s son at ground where he hit winning runs for Gulf Giants

The UAE's Aayan Afzal Khan takes the wicket of Pakistan's Mehran Mumtaz in the Under 19 Asian Cup at the ICC Academy, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak/ The National
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Like the majority of UAE players involved in their home franchise competition, Aayan Afzal Khan has had to bide his time to make an impression on the DP World International League T20.

When the chance finally arrived on Monday night, the 17-year-old whizz kid of UAE cricket seized it in spectacular fashion.

His Gulf Giants side already had the final match of the league campaign as good as sewn up. All that was needed was to knock off the final half-dozen runs required to beat Sharjah Warriors, and seal top spot in the table.

Which is precisely what Aayan did, all in one blow, and off the bowling of a familiar figure. Mohammed Nabi, the former Afghanistan captain, is a resident in the neighbouring Emirate of Ajman.

He frequently trains at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, where his son, Hassan Khan, is enrolled in the academy – and is a close mate of Aayan’s.

Hassan was at the match between Sharjah Warriors and Gulf Giants as a spectator, which culminated in his peer getting one over on his dad.

“I play with his son here, and we all train together, with Nabi and [Sharjah Warriors and Afghanistan wicketkeeper batter] Rahmanullah Gurbaz, so I know them well,” Aayan said.

“I have bowled to Nabi before in the nets, but not faced his bowling.

“In the strategic time-out [Giants coach Andy Flower] had said to finish the game in style, and Gurbaz said I should hit a six. I tried it, and it went.

“Hassan is a nice guy. His dad has also done a lot of hard work with him, and Inshallah he will be a good player, too.”

Aayan played seven of the Giants’ 10 league matches, but his chances to be noticed were limited. He had made it to the crease just once previously, and only bowled in one game – taking the wicket of England star Alex Hales in the game against Desert Vipers.

Playing the final league game at his home ground in Sharjah, he was promoted to No 4 in the batting order by Flower, and the youngster responded by taking the team to the win.

“It is too good to be playing for this team at my home ground in Sharjah,” Aayan said.

“I have trained here for so many years. It is all thanks to my dad and mum, my family back in India, and the coaches here in Sharjah have helped me a lot.

“They have been training and supporting me for years. People say I was made here.

“Andy said to me today, ‘It is your home ground, you go and play,’ and Alhamdulillah, I did good.”

Updated: February 07, 2023, 2:37 AM