UAE face last-chance play-off to keep Cricket World Cup hopes alive after Nepal defeat

National team now face six-team qualifier in Namibia following 42-run loss in Dubai

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The UAE will have to go through a last-chance play-off to keep their World Cup qualification hopes alive after another fateful day for the national team in Dubai.

A day that had started with another change of captain ended in familiar circumstances: a middle-order collapse undermining the UAE’s hopes of victory, as Nepal salvaged another thrilling win.

The troubled seven-month stint of CP Rizwan as captain was brought to an end ahead of the start, as Muhammad Waseem headed out for the toss for the last match of this Cricket World Cup League 2 tri-series.

It was around 20 hours since Rizwan had seen his side succumb to PNG at the same venue. The change of leadership had little immediate effect, as old failings remained for the home team.

Waseem, though, said he is honoured to have the role, as well as being grateful to his predecessor for his words of support.

“CP congratulated me and told me I had all his support,” Waseem said. “He told me that what needs to be done will be done for the team. He gave me his backing and wished me well.

“Being told I am leading my country is a big honour for me and my family as well.

“I have been captaining for the past three or four years in domestic cricket and I feel I am pretty competent as a captain.

“It is not about any pressure, it is about delivering what is important right now. Our main task now is to try to ensure the team minimise the mistakes we make.”

The national team lost three of their four matches against Nepal and Papua New Guinea over the course of the past week.

It means they now have no chance of advancing directly to Zimbabwe for the World Cup Qualifier in June. Instead, they will have to play in a six-team qualifier playoff in Namibia at the end of March.

Two teams from that event will advance to Zimbabwe. The tournament coincides with the start of the Indian Premier League, making the availability of Robin Singh, the UAE head coach, unclear, given his commitments with Mumbai Indians.

The national team’s primary goal now must be to maintain their one-day international status. They need to finish in the top five in League 2 to do that. If not, that will also be at stake at the competition in Namibia.

The 42-run win means Nepal do keep alive their own automatic qualification chances. It was their seventh win in eight matches over the past month.

If they win all four of their matches when the three teams decamp to Kathmandu this week, they will leapfrog Namibia into third in the league, and advance directly to the Zimbabwe Qualifier.

The UAE had appeared well set when they were 94-1 chasing 230 to win, but three wickets apiece for Sompal Kami and Dipendra Singh Airee turned the game in the tourists' favour.

“Nepal fielded really well and that had a major impact,” Waseem said.

“Our middle order continues to struggle and that is a bit of a worry for us. We felt we had a good start and the foundation was there, but unfortunately we were not able to finish the game off.”

As the game turned towards Nepal, the enviable away support roared with delight – most raucously when Airee did backflips to celebrate wickets off back-to-back deliveries.

“I have done it in the past in pressure situations, and I knew if could make it happen that we could win the game from that position, which is why I did it,” Airee said.

“Seeing a crowd like this makes us really happy. We are a developing country, and people back at home follow the game so much.

“Even here, we are not in our home ground, but people are still coming to support us. There are more Nepalese people here than UAE supporters, and that makes us really happy.”

Updated: March 07, 2023, 6:46 AM