UAE prove their mettle with statement win over Sri Lanka in U19 Asia Cup

Aayan Khan delivers with bat and ball in two-wicket victory on Monday

UAE captain Aayan Khan starred with ball and bat against Sri Lanka in their U19 Asia Cup match at the ICC Academy Ground in Dubai on Monday, December 11, 2023. Photo: ACC
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Aayan Khan believes world cricket is starting to take note of the UAE after they claimed another win against a Test-playing nation in the Under-19 Asia Cup.

The age-group side closed out a nervy two-wicket success against Sri Lanka at the ICC Academy on Monday.

It puts them in a strong position to finish in the top two places in their pool. If they beat Japan in two days’ time, they could be set for a semi-final against either India or Pakistan.

The win over Sri Lanka was the latest against a nation from cricket’s top tier. In the past two years, between the senior men’s team and their U19 colleagues, the UAE have beaten the West Indies, New Zealand, Ireland and Afghanistan in full limited-overs internationals.

The crowd of people there to see it included some notable faces. After their own afternoon gym session at the Academy, the majority of the men’s senior team stayed on the support the youngsters.

And Shoaib Akhtar, the former Pakistan pace ace, shared some words of wisdom with the side in the aftermath of victory.

Aayan, the captain, was named man of the match, just as he had been when they beat West Indies at the U19 World Cup in the Caribbean last year.

“This ranks highly, both for the U19s and the UAE in general,” Aayan said.

“In the past two or three years, we have been able to defeat strong teams playing all around the world. We have defeated West Indies, New Zealand and now Sri Lanka.

“It will be an eye-opener for all the teams around the world, to know that UAE cricket is here. We want to be among the top 12.

“Our staff and the board have been helping us a lot. We have been putting in a lot of hard work. We are playing all the top-level leagues, and the ICC leagues as well, and the U19s team have been doing well.”

Aayan, who has already played 46 times for the senior team, took 2-38 as the hosts restricted Sri Lanka to 220-9 in their 50 overs.

After Tanish Suri got the chase off to a confident start with a sparkling innings of 75, Aayan took responsibility for marshalling the final overs, making 33.

The seminal moment of the game came when he was on 11 not out, with 55 required off 69 balls, and five wickets still standing.

At that point there was a long delay as everyone awaited a ruling on a stumping off Malsha Tharupathi. Both dugouts celebrated at turns after looking at the replays, but Aayan was eventually ruled not out.

Although he did not carry his side right over the winning line, the runs he did make were vital.

“I was a bit scared,” he said. “If I had got out, then almost half the game was over.

“Then they said it was not out, and I became stronger. That was the moment that I thought, ‘I can’t lose the game from here’. It was a good ball, and thank God I was not out.”

Mudassar Nazar, the UAE coach, said victory was another sign of the progress the UAE is making in cricket.

“These youngsters have played well and come so close to beating the other sides,” Nazar said.

“They should have beaten Bangladesh the other day, too, but the belief you get from games like this [is huge]. These are the guys who are going to represent the men’s team sooner or later.

“They will take this confidence with them, and also the other sides. The U16s, the U13s, when they see results like this, their seniors beating an international team, it does wonders for you.

“Also, credit to ECB for organising so many international matches this year. Sometimes the results haven’t gone in our favour, but at the end of the day we are playing against teams who play seven days a week, and are very professional.

“To rub shoulders with them and win a game against them, it shows it is a worthy cause.”

Updated: December 11, 2023, 5:19 PM