Alishan Sharafu steps up as UAE start ACC Premier Cup campaign with win over Kuwait

National team survive loss of early wickets as opener's score of 90 proves decisive

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Alishan Sharafu was deprived of becoming just the third UAE player to score a T20 international century, but said all that mattered was getting a win at the start of Asia Cup qualifying.

The 21-year-old batter made 90 not out to guide the national team to a seven-wicket win over Kuwait in the first match of the ACC Premier Cup in Muscat.

He had appeared set for a ton, before a flurry of sixes by Asif Khan, his batting partner, hastened the UAE to victory, as they chased 179 with 15 balls to spare.

The duo shared an unbroken partnership of 153, which is the highest for the fourth wicket in the national team’s T20I history.

Only three players – captain Muhammad Waseem, Vriitya Aravind and Shaiman Anwar – have had a higher individual innings in the format than Sharafu’s effort.

It brought him the first player of the match award of his 39-game international career to date, and he is grateful for the faith that has been shown in him to this point.

“It [a match award] has been due for quite some time now, but credit to the management for backing me and letting me open the batting today,” Sharafu said. “Fortunately, I made it count.”

Basil Hameed and Ali Naseer took three wickets apiece as Kuwait made 178 for eight from their 20 overs.

Sharafu was opening for the first time, but might as well have kept his usual spot in the middle order, such was the troubled start to the UAE chase.

An upset looked to be on the cards as Waseem and Tanish Suri each fell for ducks to the first two balls of the reply.

When Vishnu Sukumaran fell for 11, the national team were struggling badly on 26 for three.

Sharafu, though, navigated his side through the trouble.

“It is challenging when we lose a couple of wickets early on,” he said. “You have to start rebuilding again and give yourself some time. That is what me and Asif tried to do.

"We kept communicating and kept giving ourselves small targets. Once we were set, it became a lot more of an easier wicket to bat on.”

Sharafu felt no bitterness towards Asif, whose rapid acceleration once he was set brought himself 74 not out in just 48 balls.

“I didn’t look at the board for my score after a point,” Sharafu said.

“Getting ourselves over the winning line in a tournament like this is what is important, and all the more so at the start of the tournament.

“Hopefully it is the first of many for us and we keep playing well in this tournament.

“[Opening] is what I have always loved doing and would love to [continue doing], but you have to bat where your team needs you to bat.

“The ILT20 was a great experience for me, playing against some of the best bowlers in the world. Today was just another opportunity and I’m glad I made it count.”

Waseem was thrilled for his new opening partner for taking the side to victory.

“He is a very good batsman and I am always backing him because I know his talent,” the captain said.

“He is batting very well. Sometimes he fails, but I have faith in him and he showed the reason for that today.”

Updated: April 12, 2024, 11:40 AM