Shaiman Anwar made a fine start to his bid to leapfrog Virat Kohli in the world rankings for Twenty20 batsmen, as his assured half-century set up a 21-run win over Nepal.
The national team bounced back from the 2-1 series defeat in the one-day international series earlier in the week by registering a morale-boosting victory at the ICC Academy in Dubai.
The majority of cricket played domestically in the Emirates is in the abridged format. It was clear the national team’s players, too, were at ease with the move to 20-over game, after the struggles in the 50-over series.
That greater familiarity with T20 is also evidenced by the fact that two players – Shaiman in batting and Mohammed Naveed in bowling – rank inside the top 20 in the world in the format.
Shaiman started this series at No 17 in the ICC batting rankings – just two places, and six ratings points, below India’s captain Kohli, who tops the charts in the other two formats.
“It is something I think about, I am No 17 at the moment and if I do well in the upcoming games, maybe I can improve on that,” Shaiman said. “I will try my best.”
Perhaps more pertinently, Shaiman’s 38-ball 59 was just what his side required in this match, after they had been troubled in the power play overs by Sompal Kami, Sandeep Lamichhane and Basant Regmi.
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His effort included two sixes that went outside the perimeter of the oval – one over the fence at mid-wicket onto Hessa Street, and the other an effortless lofted straight-drive that cleared the fence that guards the net area.
“Before the match, we discussed with the coach that, if there was a problem in the middle, I needed to take responsibility,” Shaiman said.
“I wanted to give 100 per cent to finish the game well, and luckily I did that. We were all upset before this match because we had lost the 50 -series. But this is a new format and we are happy to be playing it.
“All the boys are more used to the T20 format, so we were confident, and we did well.”
The manner of the victory, with the bowlers defending the 154-run target with relative ease, was just the sort of pick-me-up the home team required after the ODI series loss.
They remain without the trio of suspended senior players – Rohan Mustafa, Rameez Shahzad and Ahmed Raza – but they will be confident of closing out the series, with games on Friday and Sunday remaining.
Paras Khadka, the Nepal captain, was disappointed his side were unable to force a win, having made a bright start.
“The bowlers did a fantastic job to restrict the target to 154, but we lost too many wickets in the power play,” Khadka said.
“None of the top four or five batters went through, apart from Sundeep [Jora, who made 50 on his T20i debut]. It is very important in T20 that someone in the top four has to stay till the end.
“Unfortunately today, we didn’t have that. I think it was a game we should have won after restricting the, to 153, but that is how it is.”
Nepal will get the chance to square the series immediately as the sides meet again for the second match on Friday.
Given that there was an impressive crowd for the first T20 match, even though it was played during office hours, it is fair to assume the Academy might be packed on Friday afternoon.
Khadka is optimistic his side can bounce back, and encouraged his batsmen to play without fear.
“The wickets are good enough to play your shots, and the batters need to come out and play strongly and boldly,” Khadka said.
“It is T20, and you will not be successful just by surviving at the wicket. With a better batting performance, we should be able to get that victory.”