Superb UAE shock Pakistan in Under-19 Asia Cup semi-final

Bangladesh upset India to set up final against hosts on Sunday

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The UAE will face Bangladesh in the Under-19 Asia Cup final at Dubai International Stadium on Sunday after stunning Pakistan in the semi-final.

The age-group side closed out a thrilling 11-run win in the last over to claim their second success against a full Test-playing nation in the tournament so far.

Pakistan were the overwhelming favourites coming into the game. They dominated their group, with comprehensive wins over India, Afghanistan and Nepal.

To emphasise how formidable their line up is, a number of their players had been picked up in the Pakistan Super League draft on Wednesday night.

And yet it was the host nation who earned another remarkable victory, having knocked Sri Lanka out in the group stage, to take their place in Sunday’s showpiece.

Again, Aayan Khan led the way for his side. The UAE captain picked up his third player of the match award in a row, and it was not obvious which facet of the game he excelled in the most.

First, he marshalled the tail with a half century from No 7 in the order, to help his side post 193. Then he conceded just 31 from his 10 overs of left-arm spin.

Perhaps most impressive of all was the way he juggled his bowling resources, as the home team strangled Pakistan’s vaunted batting line-up in the run chase.

It left them needing 12 off the final over with two wickets left. Ayman Ahamed betrayed no nerves as he picked up both wickets within the first three balls of his over.

“I had a feeling I might be bowling, and in domestic cricket my main role had been to bowl at the death,” Ayman said.

“I felt pretty confident and, Alhamdulillah, it worked out. Aayan was saying, ‘You have done this before, just trust yourself.'

“When the last ball hit the stumps, it was amazing. It was such a relief. After so much hard work, it felt like it had paid off, and hopefully we can do this in the finals as well.”

Pakistan’s bowling attack had been highly impressive in pool play, but the UAE batters started confidently against them, having been invited to bat first.

Aryansh Sharma, who had been light on runs in the competition so far, led the way at the top of the order, as he made 46. He also held a crucial catch off the first ball of the final over to put his side on the brink of victory.

“This is the best victory I have been a part of so far, and luckily enough in this U19s side I have been part of wins against four Test-playing teams, in Ireland, West Indies, Sri Lanka, and now Pakistan,” Aryansh said.

“Hopefully we can win the final also. [Mudassar Nazar] the head coach, spoke to me and said, ‘Big players give their best performances in big games.’ And today was my day.”

Aryansh said the team had discussed before the match that 200 might be a defendable total given they were playing on a used wicket, and so it proved.

Aayan and his fellow spinners Hardik Pai, Dhruv Parashar, Ammar Badami and Ethan D’Souza all proved difficult to score off.

“This was the best day of my life,” said Aayan, who has already played 46 times for the UAE senior team.

“We had made history already by reaching the semi-finals for the first time, and now we have done it again by reaching the final.”

Updated: December 15, 2023, 3:13 PM