Just two matches into his stint as UAE captain, Muhammad Waseem is already at a loss to explain the continued batting failures of the national team.
In their first match of the final Cricket World Cup League 2 tri-series in Kathmandu, UAE were soundly beaten by 56 runs by Papua New Guinea – their third consecutive defeat to the same opposition over the past few weeks.
They now appear destined to have to fight for one-day international status in the World Cup Qualifier play-off in Namibia later this month.
The national team already have their participation in that event confirmed. The six-team tournament in Windhoek carries with it two places for the global Qualifier in Zimbabwe in June and July.
More pressingly, the two lowest ranked sides from League 2 – currently UAE and PNG - will be vying for ODI status with Canada and Jersey in Windhoek.
The latest defeat was characterised by issues which have become endemic: at least some fight with the ball, but a supine and confused display with the bat.
Waseem, who took over as captain from CP Rizwan earlier this week, said they are trying to raise spirits, yet the struggles continue.
“We have been struggling in batting,” Waseem said.
“We have not been playing positive cricket. We will try to take some positives and play our best to try to get three wins. We are trying to build our players’ confidence.”
As PNG’s players boomed their victory song out from their dressing room at the Tribhuvan University ground, on the other side of a flimsy partition their beaten opponents could scarcely have looked more downcast.
PNG have won just five of their 34 matches so far in this competition. Four of those have now come against the UAE, and they outplayed them again this time.
The damage might have been far worse, were it not for an Aayan Khan-inspired turnaround with the ball. PNG were 184-1 in the 32nd over, and poised for a massive total, before Aayan checked their progress.
The 17-year-old all-rounder took the wickets of Hiri Hiri and Assad Vala in successive balls, and had a good shout for lbw against Charles Amini for his hat-trick turned down.
After Kipling Doriga, Hiri and Sese Bau all posted brisk half-centuries, PNG might have felt their final total of 246-9 was some way short of what it could have been.
Aayan, with three wickets, was the pick of the UAE attack, but he was expertly supported by Rohan Mustafa, who restrained the scoring rate in taking 1-24 from his 10 overs.
The fact Waseem was able to lace 41 in 27 balls showed how benign conditions were. And yet UAE still found a way to implode in the run chase.
Again, they were architects of their own downfall, chipping up soft catches, and with abject running between the wickets.
The die was cast when a mix up between Rizwan and Aryan Lakra, who top scored with 51, cost the former captain his wicket, and UAE failed to recover thereafter. They were bowled out for 190 in the 43rd over.
“That was the turning point of the match,” Waseem said.
“After that we lost two or three quick wickets. We had been going well, but suddenly we gave that run out, and after that the momentum changed.
“We gave them wickets, and the match changed. Otherwise we had been going well, our batting was looking good, and the pitch was perfect.”