Asif Khan urges UAE to avoid basic mistakes after defeat to USA

In-form batsman scores another century but national team lose in Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-off

UAE's Asif Khan celebrates his century against USA in their Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-off in Namibia. Jan Willem Prinsloo for The National
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Asif Khan says UAE need to avoid basic mistakes if they are to bounce back in their crucial remaining games after defeat to United States at the Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-off in Namibia on Thursday.

The in-form batter hit his second century in last three one-day internationals for the national team, but they were ultimately soundly beaten by five wickets.

United States have been regular tormentors of the UAE. Since they first met in ODI cricket back in 2019, the national team have won just one of six matches against them.

This time, USA's hero was someone new. Saiteja Mukkamalla was only playing because of injury to experienced opener Steven Taylor. A day earlier, he had made just one in a fractious loss against their North American rivals Canada.

The youngster navigated his side through a fine run chase against UAE, though, scoring 120 not out as they chased 281 with an over to spare.

Despite Mukkamalla’s excellence, UAE were largely culpable for their own demise. Their fielding was tatty at best, and three of their batters were run out.

Asif’s 81-ball century felt relatively pedestrian given his maiden ODI ton, in Nepal earlier this month, took him a mere 41.

He was involved in the run out which cost Rohan Mustafa his wicket to make the score 205-5 after 39 overs, and he felt the dismissal was pivotal.

“I’ve played a lot of domestic cricket in Pakistan and I am used to these conditions,” Asif said, explaining his own fine form.

“Usually in domestic cricket I open, but with four or five senior players that is why I play there [at No6] for the national team.

“After Ronnie bhai’s [Mustafa’s] run out at a crucial time today I think we finished 30 runs short. Ronnie and my partnership was going well, but unfortunately he was run out and we fell short.”

The six-team competition in Windhoek has much at stake for the UAE. The top two sides will advance to the final stage of qualifying for the World Cup in India later this year - the global Qualifier in Zimbabwe in June and July.

The national team are also seeking to safeguard their status as an ODI nation. To do so, they need to finish in the top two of a group of four teams that also includes Canada, Papua New Guinea and Jersey.

They beat PNG in their opening match. They face Canada – who have won both their matches so far – on Saturday, before facing Namibia a day later.

Their final match is against Jersey, who have suffered two defeats in the competition so far.

Asif, who missed much of the USA innings with a knee injury which he said is only minor, is confident UAE can bounce back, but says they need to tighten up their fielding if they are to do so.

“We worked very hard last night on our fielding, but the weather is hard here and maybe that had an effect,” Asif said.

“We have Canada and Namibia next, and every game is important from here on.”

Updated: March 30, 2023, 6:41 PM