Esha Oza’s resistance not enough as UAE hearts are broken by giants Sri Lanka

Captain’s innings nearly sparked one of great upsets in women’s cricket history but national team missed out on place at T20 World Cup

The UAE's chase of Sri Lanka's target of 150 faltered and ultimately fell short once captain Esha Oza was dismissed for 66 runs in the 16th over. Photo: ICC
Powered by automated translation

Ahmed Raza said Esha Oza had played one of the great innings by a UAE player in defeat to Sri Lanka on Sunday night.

The national team fell agonisingly short of creating one of the biggest upsets in the history of the women’s game at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

They ultimately missed out on qualification for the Women’s T20 World Cup after finishing 15 runs short of beating the side ranked No 7 in the world.

As a sign of how close they got, it was a rare occasion of when the player of the match award was handed to a player from the losing side.

Oza, the UAE captain, received the award at the post-match ceremony. It seemed of little consolation, though, given she had shortly before appeared heartbroken after losing her wicket in the run chase.

Pursuing 150 to win, the hosts were well placed on 108 for three in the 16th over. It was at that point, though, that Oza was dismissed for 66 from 44 balls, and their challenge faltered.

Raza has witnessed the majority of the highest moments in UAE cricket’s history, via 17 years as a player in the men’s side, then subsequently on the coaching staff of both the men’s and women’s teams.

He said Oza’s innings was up there with the best by a UAE player, and would have been at the very top had she managed to stay a little while longer.

“If she had scored 15 runs more, that would have topped everything,” Raza, the head coach of the UAE women’s side, said.

“What she did as a leader, and what she did as a player coming up against the Asian giants of Sri Lanka – ranked in the top 10 for a reason – for her to play that sort of a knock, she can take a lot of pride from that.

“If only she had some more support from the other batters, we could have pulled it off. It was definitely one of the best innings she has played.”

Oza is no stranger to extraordinary feats at the batting crease. She has three T20I centuries to her name, including the third highest score ever made in the format by a female.

But it is difficult to think she has played a more captivating knock than the one against the Sri Lankans.

It included four sixes, which was double the amount the Sri Lankan side made as a collective in their innings. And both of Sri Lanka’s came from the bat of the great Chamari Athapaththu.

In fact, Oza was proving such stubborn opposition that Athapaththu actually bowled a delivery to her when the UAE captain was yet to look up from her stance.

The umpire called a dead ball, which vexed a clearly flustered Sri Lanka captain.

When Udeshika Prabodhani did finally get one through Oza, the favourites celebrated wildly. They clearly realised they World Cup place was now within their grasp.

“I am happy, but I would have been happier if we were playing the next game and making it to the World Cup,” Oza said.

“That is what our main aim was. [Defeats] are part and parcel of the game but our main aim was to qualify for the World Cup, and we weren’t able to do that.”

Aged 26, Oza is the oldest player in a side which has six players who are 18 or younger.

She said the side will have learnt much from getting so close to a World Cup place.

“It has been a good journey but just finishing 15 runs short, if it had have gone the other way, it would have been a very great day,” Oza said.

“The team has done really well to put on a show like that against a team like Sri Lanka. The way our bowlers came out and the energy we showed in the field was really great.

“It is about taking things forward and learning from these experiences.”

Raza believes one focus area for the side needs to be fielding. When the pressure was on during the slog overs at the end of Sri Lanka’s innings, the young UAE side let slip a number of opportunities to save runs.

By contrast, their more experienced opposition were able to squeeze the run chase at the same stage of the UAE innings.

“The scoreline says 15 runs, but there is a lot to read between the lines,” Raza said.

“I think we gave away more than 20 runs in the field and [Sri Lanka] saved more than 20. That means you end up chasing 170 rather than 150.

“There are obviously a lot of positives. Look at where we finished two years ago [when the UAE finished seventh out of eight teams in their first appearance at a global qualifier] to where we are today.”

Updated: May 06, 2024, 12:28 PM