Bittersweet day for UAE as seniors bounce back but Nepal take U19 World Cup place

Age-group side miss out on trip to Sri Lanka after thrilling game in Ajman but CP Rizwan’s team win in Dubai

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UAE cricket enjoyed a bittersweet day against Nepal in two different World Cup qualifying events in two different emirates, 60 kilometres apart.

In Dubai, the senior men’s side got their Cricket World Cup League 2 campaign back on track with a comprehensive 68-run win against their familiar rivals.

Just as CP Rizwan’s side were putting the finishing touches to that success at Dubai International Stadium, down the E311, the country’s leading age-group cricketers were attempting to do similar.

They missed out on a third successive trip to an Under-19 World Cup, though, after an extraordinary finish to their encounter with Nepal at Ajman Eden Gardens.

The winners of the final game of the Asia Qualifier will advance to the main event in Sri Lanka next year. It was Nepal who punched their ticket, after Dipesh Kandel took a hat trick to seal a seven-run win.

“I am out of words right now – the feeling was absolutely brilliant,” Dev Khanal, the Nepal captain, said. “The way the boys showed character in such a big game was something to cherish.

“UAE were in the game from ball one, they dominated us, so to win a game like that by seven runs was something brilliant.

“Back at home, everyone must be so, so happy now. It is an amazing feeling. It was a fantastic feeling, and thanks to our fans for keeping believing in us.”

Missing out on qualification felt harsh on UAE, who had a number of players who were involved when the national team won the plate title at the U19 World Cup in the Caribbean last year.

On the way to that trophy, UAE beat two full member nations – West Indies and Ireland. Yet, while those two sides are guaranteed admission to the event in Sri Lanka next year, UAE had to qualify all over again.

They and Nepal were the overwhelmingly dominant sides in an event that also included Kuwait, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

UAE started the final in fine fashion, too, as Harit Shetty sent Deepak Bohara’s middle stump cartwheeling off the first delivery of the game.

Nepal recovered from being 19-3 to post 191, with Khanal top scoring with 51, but UAE appeared comfortable in reply thanks to a 67-run opening stand between Aryansh Sharma and Aryan Saxena.

Three quick wickets rocked the hosts, but a dapper half-century by Ethan D’Souza kept them on track.

We thought we could take away the game from them, but they fought to the end
UAE U19 captain Aayan Khan

Kandel’s left-arm spin was the difference, though, as he closed out the victory in remarkable style, claiming a five-wicket haul in the process.

“We thought we could take away the game from them, but they fought to the end,” Aayan Khan, the UAE captain, said.

“The way they played showed how to take a game away from a team. Unfortunately we are not on the winning side, but they played well.

“We beat West Indies and Ireland a year ago, so we thought we would have gone through [as automatic qualifiers]. Unfortunately, our team had to play in this.

“We have to move on. Nepal did well, and they are going to the World Cup.”

Despite playing for the U19 side, Aayan is also part of the 14-man senior team playing in the League 2 tri-series involving Nepal and PNG.

UAE and Nepal are each vying to get past Namibia into the third automatic qualifying berth to play at the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe in June.

Despite UAE’s win in Dubai on Thursday, inspired by a fine all-round display by Rohan Mustafa, Aayan will likely be restored to the line up when the UAE return to action against PNG on Sunday.

If he plays in each of the remaining games of the tri-series, it will mean he has featured in eight 50-over matches in the space of 12 days.

“I thought I could do something in this U19 side,” Aayan said. “Now I am a bit tired, but I have to play more. Inshallah, I can play two more games here, then we can go off to Nepal [for the final tri-series of League 2].”

Updated: March 02, 2023, 4:32 PM