Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 October 2020

Dwayne Bravo hails 'standout bowler' Shiraz Ahmed as Maratha Arabians clinch place in Abu Dhabi T10 final

Shiraz played a crucial role in seeing the franchise through to the final in their seven-run win over Qalandars in the qualifier play-off on Saturday

When Shiraz Ahmed quit his job as a storekeeper in September to devote himself to cricket, he faced an uncertain future.

At least he was assured of keeping his room in staff accommodation in Jebel Ali’s industrial area, as well as his employment with an air-conditioning contractor.

The storekeeper role was really just a side job. The skills Noor Al Yemen really recruited him for are the ones that see him lead the bowling attack for their staff cricket team.

Two months on from setting aside his day job, the 5am alarm calls are gone, and the decision to focus on cricket is already bearing fruit.

On Sunday, he will be part of a bowling attack including short-format greats such as Lasith Malinga and Dwayne Bravo that is gunning for the Abu Dhabi T10 title.

And not just any old part of that attack, according to the Maratha Arabians captain.

“Shiraz is a young bowler who, to me, has been the standout bowler for us,” Bravo said.

“His 12 balls have been very crucial in every game, and he has always delivered.”

Bravo’s view echoes that of Andy Flower, the Maratha Arabians coach, who also gave the left-arm seamer a glowing endorsement.

“Shiraz, for us, has been pivotal,” Flower said of the Pakistan-born bowler.

“He struggled in one game, but other than that he has showed great skill bowling yorkers.

“And he bowled a great bouncer that clonked [Paul] Stirling [when they beat Delhi Bulls in the group stage] on the helmet, which was good to see.”

Joining a side that has Flower as coach, as well as some of the most bankable stars in the game like Bravo, Malinga, Yuvraj Singh and Chris Lynn, might have been a daunting prospect for Shiraz.

He is, after all, as yet uncapped for the UAE. He plays as much tape-ball cricket as he does formal cricket.

And he only landed this chance when he was spotted in domestic cricket by Abdullatif Khan, the owner of one of the Arabians’ sponsors.

Despite all that, he has looked to the manner born in this company.

So confident has he been, he has already choreographed his own trademark wicket-celebration – adopted from Bajirao Mastani, a Hindi movie based on a Maratha warrior.

A UAE call-up must surely be imminent – the captain Ahmed Raza has also praised Shiraz during this tournament. But first, a shot at the T10 title on Sunday.

“It feels so good when legends like that praise me,” Shiraz, 28, said.

“They have given me a lot of confidence. They have supported me a lot, and I am thankful to all of those players – Lasith, Bravo, Yuvi-bhai – all of them.”

Shiraz played a crucial role in seeing the franchise through to the final in their seven-run win over Qalandars in the qualifier play-off on Saturday.

His 12 balls cost just 11 runs, and he also picked up the wicket of Phil Salt, who had appeared to be Qalandars’ most likely threat in their chase of 120 to win.

Despite Shiraz's excellence with the ball, it was Lynn who was named man of the match, as he continued his remarkable streak of run-scoring.

The Australian opener made 67 from 30 balls, which was his fourth score in excess of 60 in his past five trips to the crease in this tournament.

“Chris Lynn has dominated this entire tournament with the bat,” Bravo said.

“I am very happy to see him among the runs. My team are not reliant on him.

"He is part of the team, he is selected to make runs, and he is one of the best players in the world.

“The luck is on his side, the form is on his side, and he has taken the responsibility as a senior batsman in the team to bat most of the overs.”

Updated: November 23, 2019 10:33 PM

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