Emotional day for Zahoor Khan as pacer helps UAE progress in Asia Cup qualifying campaign

Fast bowler dedicates match-winning effort against Qatar in Oman to his late mother

File photo of UAE's Zahoor Khan, who starred with the ball against Qatar during the Asia Cup qualifying campaign. Pawan Singh / The National 
File photo of UAE's Zahoor Khan, who starred with the ball against Qatar during the Asia Cup qualifying campaign. Pawan Singh / The National 

After taking the wicket that all but guaranteed UAE’s place in the next phase of Asia Cup qualifying, Zahoor Khan pointed to the sky and sent a message of love to his mother.

The UAE fast bowler has been playing at the Western Region T20 under sufferance this week. He admits he had not wanted to board the flight from Dubai to Muscat at all.

The last time he was in the city, for the national team’s Cricket World Cup League T20 triangular series last month, he received the news from Pakistan that his mother had died.

He pulled out of the tour on the morning of the first game, and returned to his family home.

It is a quirk of the UAE team’s fixtures calendar that they have been sent back to Oman straight away for the first phase of qualifying for September’s Asia Cup.

They eventually sealed progress to the next tournament, in Malaysia in August, after a 28-run win over Qatar in a semi-final that might have been far tighter had it not been for Zahoor’s excellence with the ball.

He took 3-17, and fellow seamer Junaid Siddique took 4-12, as Qatar were restricted to 94 in pursuit of UAE’s total of 122.

“When we were leaving UAE, I wasn’t really keen on coming here, but obviously this is my job,” Zahoor said.

“I took the flight and came down here, but after what happened last month, I have felt worried that I might get another call from home for another emergency, or something like that.”

On the morning of the match against Qatar, Zahoor opened a voice message that his mother had left on his WhatsApp ahead of last month’s tour, and played it to himself.

“It was full of prayers, and wishing the UAE team a lot of success,” Zahoor said.

“When I bowled that last over, I went to the boundary rope and told [UAE 12th man Karthik Meiyappan] about it.

“This performance was for my mother, and I feel like all her prayers from heaven are with us here.”

When Zahoor finished his fourth over, by which point it was clear UAE had done enough to win the game, Ahmed Raza enveloped his fast bowler in an embrace.

The captain said his show of affection was less to do with the emotion he realised Zahoor was feeling than praise for a job well done.

“Because he was in the IPL auction, I call him our IPL bowler,” Raza said.

“I think he is one of the best Associate bowlers going around, and this is one format where his skillset is as good as any international player in the world.

“You don’t often see somebody bowl two overs in the first power play, then two overs at the end, and just go for 17 runs. So I went up to him to say, ‘Great work’.

“Every now and then it is nice to appreciate what he does well, what he brings to this team, and the way he affects the results for us.”

UAE supporters might have been nervous about their chances when another under-par batting display saw them post just 122, with Chirag Suri top scoring with 38.

However, their bowling attack is well-versed in defending modest totals, and they excelled under the pressure.

“When you are defending a small total like 122, obviously there are a lot of nerves,” Zahoor said.

“But I thrive on those nerves, and I think it brings out the best in everyone, because we are so focused.

“We are so clear in what skills we are going to use, knowing you can’t give away a big over when defending such a small total.

“Everyone says we have one of the best bowling attacks, and this was one of those days when we had to show our mettle.”

UAE will face Kuwait in Thursday’s final, after they beat Bahrain in the other semifinal on the adjacent oval at Oman Cricket Academy.

Both sides will advance to the final qualifier, in Kuala Lumpur in the summer, where they will be joined by the top two teams from a competition involving Nepal, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Published: February 26, 2020 02:40 PM

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