The UAE may have lost one of their finest prospects to England in recent days, but they continue to progress at pace in the women’s game after sealing qualification for the global T20 World Cup Qualifier.
Esha Oza struck 85 then took the winning wicket as the national team overpowered Hong Kong in the semi-final of Asia qualifying in Kuala Lumpur.
They will play Thailand in the final on Saturday in the knowledge that both sides have secured their place in the next phase of qualifying.
“We have been working hard for the past weeks and months and finally we are there,” said Oza, who was given the player-of-the-match award after the 57-run win.
“We have been getting better in each and every game because we have been playing tougher opposition as we have gone forward, and I think as a team we played our best game today.
“We clicked as a team and that has helped us go to the next level.”
The competition in Malaysia has coincided with Mahika Gaur, the former UAE fast bowler, playing her debut series for England.
Although she is now no longer available to the country where she learnt her cricket, the UAE’s excellence in Kuala Lumpur shows that there is still an enviable amount of talent emerging in the women’s game in the Emirates.
Oza, who was the ICC’s Associate women’s cricketer of the year for 2022, struck her highest score of the competition so far.
She shared a partnership of 120 with Kavisha Kumari as UAE posted 141-4 from their 20 overs.
A double strike from Suraksha Kotte undermined the Hong Kong chase before it had got going.
Chaya Mughal, Samaira Dharnidharka, Vaishnave Mahesh, Khushi Sharma and Oza all contributed wickets as Hong Kong were bowled out for 84.
“I have been continuing the momentum from the games before and when things go your way in cricket, they just go your way,” Oza said.
The 2024 Women’s T20 World Cup is scheduled to be played in Bangladesh in September and October of next year.
The date and destination of the final qualifying event – from which the final two teams for the main tournament will be decided – is yet to be confirmed.
It will be a 10-team competition. Thailand and the UAE are two of five sides who are already confirmed for the event, along with Vanuatu, Ireland and Scotland.
The national team have played at a global qualifier once before, in Abu Dhabi last year. Although they did not progress from that, they did claim their most notable scalp to date when they beat Zimbabwe.
Ahmed Raza, their coach, believes they will be better placed to compete when they play at the next qualifier.
“Most of this team played in that qualifier, and now they are two years older and smarter,” Raza said.
“When we go to the qualifiers this time around it will be different. Our first aim was to get the World Cup.
“There are boxes to tick along the way. Nothing beats playing at a World Cup and we haven’t done that before [in the women’s game], and this is another opportunity.
“We need to find out who will be in the World Cup so that we can start preparing in the next few months to ensure we are well equipped to go for it.”