UAE's Muhammad Waseem warms up for epic finale against Nepal with record-breaking blitz

Captain hits 12 sixes in 60-ball ton as national team return to winning ways against PNG in Kathmandu

UAE captain Muhammad Waseem celebrates his century in the Cricket World Cup League 2 match against Papua New Guinea at the TU International Cricket Stadium in Kathmandu on Wednesday, March 15, 2023. Subas Humagain for The National
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Muhammad Waseem prepared for a momentous final day of Cricket World Cup League 2 by playing arguably the most extraordinary innings in UAE’s one-day international history.

The national team’s captain brought his T20 prowess to bear in the longer of the limited-overs formats for the first time, with a stunning assault against Papua New Guinea in Kathmandu.

Waseem has already made two T20I centuries in his brief career to date, but had only passed 50 twice in 29 innings in the 50-over game before this one.

PNG, who had won their last three encounters with the national side, were the ones to bear the brunt as Waseem finally brought his T20 domination to bear in 50 overs.

The opener blazed 12 sixes in his innings of 119 from 76 balls. At one stage it appeared as if he might be set to break Eoin Morgan's record for most sixes in an ODI innings of 17.

Waseem's innings set his side up for a morale-boosting six-wicket win in their penultimate game in the competition.

He reached three figures off the 61st ball he faced. That was the fastest ODI century by a UAE player, breaking the 69-ball record of Vriitya Aravind – who was batting at the other end when Waseem achieved his milestone.

Waseem's final score was the third highest by a UAE player in the format, with only Khurram Khan (132 not out) and Rameez Shahzad (121 not out) having made more in the past.

Earlier in the day, Hazrat Bilal took four wickets as UAE restricted PNG to 234-7 from their 50 overs. Waseem's blitz at the top of the innings helped the national team reach the target with six wickets, and 68 balls, in hand.

"I had never taken 29 innings [to make a century] before and I was sad about this, but Alhamdulillah I did this today for my team," Waseem said.

"To be honest, I have to play my natural game. I am an opener and if I can get us off to a good start, and we can get 60 or 70 in the first 10 overs, it is good for my team.

"If I am there at the wicket, I will always try to play my natural game at the start of the innings. I just tried my best."

After three and a half years of competition, the last match of League 2 will take place on Thursday. Although UAE’s own fate is already sealed, there remains much riding on the final fixture. The tourists could yet be the ultimate party-poopers.

The national team are already guaranteed to play at the World Cup Qualifier Play-off in Namibia, starting later this month. If they beat Nepal on the final day, they will be joining them in Windhoek.

If the home side win, though, they will advance directly to the global Qualifier in Zimbabwe in the summer.

The stakes have sent the home supporters into a frenzy. As many as 20,000 are expected to pack into the Tribhuvan University ground, with potentially thousands more watching on from various vantage points – including being perched in trees – beyond the barbed wire fences.

"We don't care about audience or the crowd," Waseem said.

"We have already played in front of this crowd. We will try to play our best cricket and finish with a win.

"If I can play the same as I did today, if I do that tomorrow it will be good for my team."

Updated: March 16, 2023, 2:53 AM