Aayan Khan absence felt as UAE lose ground to Namibia in World Cup qualifying race

Michael van Lingen knock sends national team to seven wicket loss, while one of their star players was involved in U19 event in Ajman instead

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CP Rizwan played down the absence of Aayan Khan after the UAE’s defeat to Namibia meant they lost two vital points in their pursuit of World Cup 2023 qualification.

Michael van Lingen struck 71 not out to guide the tourists to a seven-wicket win in Cricket World Cup League 2 at Dubai International Stadium.

It meant Namibia reasserted a 10-point lead over UAE in the race for the third automatic qualification berth for the global Qualifier in Zimbabwe in June.

UAE have eight matches left, over the course of back-to-back tri-series against Nepal and Papua New Guinea, first in Dubai then Kathmandu.

They will need to win six of those if they are to beat the Namibians to third place in the table. Nepal could also take third, but require seven wins to do so.

The UAE starting XI for Saturday’s game against Namibia did not include Aayan.

The 17-year-old all-rounder had been the player of the match in a thrilling one-wicket win for the host nation in the first match between the two sides on Thursday.

However, he was absent two days later. Instead, he was in Ajman, captaining the UAE’s Under 19 side in their own World Cup qualifying competition.

He thrived there. Aayan took 5-17 as UAE thrashed Hong Kong U19 by 163 runs. Down the road in Dubai, though, the senior colleagues he had left behind looked bereft without him.

“It is a hard call, especially missing a guy who won us the game almost single-handedly last time out,” said Rizwan, the UAE captain who top scored with 60 not out in their total of 166-9.

“Not having his services was tough, but it is one of those things we cannot control. We needed to take care of things that are in our control.

“We could have battled better, obviously. Credit to them, they kept us under pressure, bowling good balls and taking wickets at regular intervals. We didn’t get any partnerships goings.

“On this wicket, the way Aayan bowled [on Thursday], he didn’t give any loose balls. We missed that, and we have a lot of things to work on, both batting and bowling.”

Van Lingen offered a half-chance right at the start of his innings in the run chase, slicing an edge off Rahul Bhatia – Aayan’s replacement – between Rizwan and Rohan Mustafa in the slips.

Rizwan said it was the sort of opportunity UAE needed to convert if they were to force an unlikely win, given the paltry target they were defending.

“These are the small things which matter in the end,” Rizwan said. “You never know what might happen if you can take that catch.

“He played an extraordinary counter-attacking innings. If that was out, with a new batsman in, you never know.”

Victory meant Gerhard Erasmus enjoyed the last laugh over Rizwan, who had been squad-mates together when Gulf Giants won the first International League T20 title at the same ground, two weeks earlier.

The Namibia captain has had to marshal a side which had been shorn of many of its leading lights for the final phase of the competition.

Namibia lost five of their final six matches in League 2. Over the course of that time they were without David Wiese, their leading star, who was on Pakistan Super League duty.

Also absent were JJ Smit and Jan Frylinck, through injury, Stephan Baard because of work commitments, and Divan la Cock, because of studies.

“I felt that this last tour showed that we couldn’t quite replace the quality of players we had through the 36-game cycle and just finish it off in the last part, with a lot of absentees,” Erasmus said.

“That is the kind of challenge an Associate nation goes through. Missing half a side is a really tough thing to balance out. The challenge for us will always be creating squad depth.

“Namibia has a small population, there are a small amount of clubs, so it is a challenge for us to keep up with all the other nations in how they rejuvenate with players.”

Updated: March 01, 2023, 12:36 PM