'First I called my wife, then my mother' - Jubilation in Sharjah and Kerala as CP Rizwan steers UAE to famous win

A ton from Rizwan and from Usman secures victory over Ireland

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When CP Rizwan reached a century for the first time in his international cricket career on Friday afternoon, his respective cheer squads in Sharjah and Kerala responded in contrasting fashion.

In Tellicherry, it meant his mother, Nazreen Rauf, was able to breathe again, after she had been asphyxiated with nerves as he battled through the 90s.

Meanwhile, in Sharjah, his wife Fathima thought to herself: that’s the first job done – now go and win the match for your team.

As it turned out, he fell before the mission was fully complete. But his innings of 109, and contribution to a seminal alliance worth 184 with Mohammed Usman, had done the trick.

Usman made a century, too, and hit the winning runs as the UAE sealed a six-wicket win over Ireland in the first one-day international in Abu Dhabi.

The partnership was the highest ever in the UAE’s ODI history, and the win just their second against a Test nation in the format.

Rizwan termed it the proudest moment of his career in cricket to date, and he immediately phoned his nearest and dearest to celebrate.

“First I called my wife – she was very happy – then my mother,” Rizwan, 32, said.

“They are the main two people in my life. My mother is in Kerala. She was watching the match live on the telecast.

“She could not watch when I got into the 90s. She was asking my cousins to update her as she was very nervous.

“When I got to 100, she was very happy. She already started getting messages from all our relatives.”

It was the first competitive action for the UAE in nearly 11 months because of the pandemic.

Rizwan’s day job is as an electrical engineer for a construction company, and he had to go to his office even during lockdown.

When time permitted back then, he honed his cricket skills in the front room of his apartment in Sharjah, with his wife giving him throw-downs.

Fathima had not been a fan of cricket till she met her husband. Now she is a canny student of the game.

“She watched till I got to 50, then by God’s grace I got to 100, and she said I should have finished the match,” Rizwan said.

Dual blow

“I said, ‘We won, it’s fine!’ It was a good catch that got me out.

"I got out with around 25 needed, but we knew we had the power at the back end to finish it off, and that’s exactly what happened.”

The victory said much about UAE’s character. Paul Stirling had scored a fine hundred as Ireland posted 269 for five from their 50 overs for a side who had beaten world champions England the last time they had played.

The UAE were then struggling at 51 for three, before the Rizwan-Usman resistance.

Even before that, the national team had been hit by a dual blow. It was announced on the morning of the game that Chirag Suri and Aryan Lakra had tested positive for Covid 19.

Neither is displaying symptoms, but it meant Lakra was deprived a shot at a debut, while the team were denied the services of their vice-captain, Suri.

“We were sad about the news, and we really missed him, given the calibre which he has,” Rizwan said of the loss of opener Suri.

“But we can’t do much it. We were shocked to hear the news, but we gelled together.

"We said, whatever is gone is gone, now we need to play. That is what we did, and luckily everything went our way.”

The win was a pick-me-up for Ahmed Raza, the UAE captain, who was playing his first match since returning from his father’s funeral in Pakistan.

“I asked the boys to do it for me,” Raza said. “I lost my father recently. This is the first international game since that.

“This is for him, and I’m sure he was blessing me from the heavens.”

The sides will play the second of their four ODIs at the Zayed Cricket Stadium on Sunday, with Andy Balbirnie, the Ireland captain, confident his side can bounce back.

“We can certainly learn from that,” Balbirnie said of the opening day loss.

“We haven’t played cricket in a long time, but the games are coming thick and fast.

"We have had a better look at their batsmen, and we have to sit down and come up with some different plans.

“It is a big challenge for us to turn this around, 1-0 down with three to go. As long as we are getting better with every game, I can’t really ask for much more.”