UAE urge fans to come and back them as they bid to make history in U19 Asia Cup final

Age-group side will face Bangladesh in maiden final appearance at Dubai International Stadium on Sunday

Mahfuzur Rahman Rabby, captain of Bangladesh, and Aayan Afzal Khan, captain of United Arab Emirates, right, pose with the trophy ahead of the final match of ACC Men's U19 Asia Cup 2023 held at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. ACC
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UAE players and officials want cricket fans to come en masse to the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday to support them in the Under 19 Asia Cup final.

The national age-group side will face Bangladesh in the showpiece game of the competition. It starts at 9:30am and admission is free.

They booked their first appearance in the final of an Asia Cup after an extraordinary shock win over Pakistan in the semi-final at the ICC Academy on Friday.

They beat a Pakistan side who had trounced India, Afghanistan and Nepal in the group phase, by 11 runs, with two wickets in three balls in the final over of the match.

Captain Aayan Khan, who was player of the match for the third game in a row after making 55 in 57 balls then provided a tactical masterclass in the field, termed it the “best day of my life”.

Now he hopes the final can match up to it. The UAE lost out to Bangladesh in the group phase, but felt it was an opportunity missed after performing well in the field.

“A [UAE] U19 team had never been in the semi-final before, and now we are in the grand final as well,” Aayan said.

“It is such a big thing for me and my team. I am lucky enough to have been with the UAE [senior] team and play leagues as well, but these guys have been working so hard for this.

“We couldn’t chase in the group game against Bangladesh and lost by 50 runs, but we won the next three games, and now our morale is high.

“We don’t get many chances to make history, and we will try to make it.”

The home team were cheered on to victory by a sizeable crowd at the ICC Academy. Many were waving flags. Two were playing drums. The senior men’s team also roared their support over the picket fence.

“I was shocked by this crowd because we don’t usually get many fans, but thankfully they supported us a lot,” Aayan said.

“I am hoping for more crowd in the final game because it does give us a boost. It does help us. Having all that support for us [against Pakistan] helped us.”

Mubashshir Usmani, the general secretary of the Emirates Cricket Board, said the age-group side have made the country proud.

“We are delighted with the team’s sensational performance and congratulate all the players and the coaching staff on this historic achievement,” Usmani said.

“The players and coaches have worked tirelessly to produce these results, the future of UAE cricket is incredibly bright and these are the players who will take the sport to the next level.

“On behalf of the Emirates Cricket Board, I request the fans to come in big numbers and support our youngsters who have made us proud with their outstanding performance.”

Aayan’s poise in the field in the win against Pakistan belied the fact that his batting effort had ended in angry fashion.

He exchanged words with some of the Pakistani fielders, and did not take kindly to being sent off by the bowler, Ubaid Shah, when he was last man out.

Aayan continued his verbal exchange with some Pakistan players, and the umpires had to defuse the situation.

“We know all fast bowlers are aggressive,” Aayan said. “He had just been hit for a four over his head and he got angry and sent me off.

“We had to take it as strong motivation, and in the field we made such a good effort. Thanks to the players and staff for all their hard work. It made the game for us.”

Updated: December 16, 2023, 11:59 AM