Sharma stars on T20 debut but youthful UAE fall just short against New Zealand

Black Caps pushed all the way by hosts in Dubai but claim a 1-0 lead in three-game series

UAE's Aryansh Sharma bats during the T20 game between the UAE and New Zealand at The Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Aryansh Sharma had a T20 international debut to remember but the UAE fell short of a shock win against New Zealand in Dubai.

The 18-year-old student top scored as the youngest side UAE have ever fielded in a T20I pushed the Black Caps close at Dubai International Stadium.

As a marker of just how much of a gap the home team are attempting to bridge in this three-game series, the last time their guests were here was when they were playing in a T20 World Cup final at this same venue.

Despite the gilded status of their opposition, UAE have backed untested youth for this series. Absent are UAE greats like Rohan Mustafa and Rameez Shahzad, and there were four debutants in the line up for the opening game.

Admittedly, three – Asif Khan, Sharma and Ali Naseer – have played plenty of one-day international cricket for the national team in the recent past.

The fourth, Mohammed Faraazuddin, has been on the fringes of the side for some time now, and the young off-spinner took to it immediately.

He went for just 15 from the three overs he bowled, and also claimed the wicket of Mark Chapman.

The match was notable for the fact a wicket fell on the first ball of each innings. It was understandable that Junaid Siddique caught Chad Bowes cold with the opening delivery of the series.

When the New Zealanders met for their pre-tour get together in Christchurch before this series it was two degrees below zero. They have gone from one extreme to the other.

The UAE were not short of stars with the ball. Junaid took two for 35. Basil Hameed, who also took a wicket with the first ball he bowled as he dismissed the dangerous Tim Seifert, also took two.

Faraazuddin was polished on debut, while Zahoor Khan was characteristically excellent, clipping New Zealand’s scoring with a series of slower and even slower balls.

They restricted their illustrious opposition to 155 for six from their 20 overs. That represented a chaseable target, but it felt as though hopes rested heavily on Muhammad Waseem.

The UAE captain is ranked No 6 in the world standings for T20I batters. When he was trapped plumb in front for a golden duck by his opposite number, Tim Southee, the home support was immediately deflated.

And yet Aryansh kept them in it. His counterattack was uplifting. At one point, he and Asif Khan took four successive fours between them off Southee and Kyle Jamieson.

Had he stopped to think, the Ghaziabad-born teenager might have been spooked by the realization he was mixing it with players he has grown up watching in the IPL, like Southee, Jamieson and James Neesham.

Instead, he carried on with the assault – all the way until he fired a catch to Bowes. The pat on the back he got from Mitchell Santner, another IPL star, on his way off after making 60, was well earned.

That dismissal all but spelt the end of the hosts' resistance, as they eventually slipped to a 19-run loss.

Updated: August 17, 2023, 6:43 PM