UAE rally behind Zahoor Khan after fast bowler's mother passes away

Pacer forced to withdraw from World Cup League Two match against Oman, which his team lost by five wickets

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - October 30, 2019: The UAE's Zahoor Khan looks dejected during the game between the UAE and Scotland in the World Cup Qualifier in the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. Wednesday the 30th of October 2019. Sports City, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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UAE’s Cricket World Cup League Two campaign in Oman was dealt a blow before it had even started when Zahoor Khan pulled out ahead of the first match after the sudden death of his mother.

The national team’s senior fast bowler had spoken to her on the phone on Saturday evening, but found out she had passed away the following morning.

He hastily arranged a flight to Pakistan from Muscat, where the national team were playing Oman in the first match of a tri-series that also involves Namibia.

The sombre start to the tour showed up in the performance of the national team, who failed to recover after early-morning excellence from the Oman bowlers on Sunday.

After the UAE were bowled out for 170, with only Mohammed Usman propping up the batting with 68, the home side chased the target with ease. They won with five wickets in hand and 75 balls to spare.

Dougie Brown, the UAE coach, acknowledged that his players had been affected by the sad start to the morning.

“Condolences to Zahoor, who is just one of the nicest guys you are ever likely to meet,” Brown said.

“He was obviously incredibly upset this morning, as everybody was. He only heard just prior to us leaving for the ground.

“We left the hotel in a really negative frame of mind. As best as you can, you try to put a professional slant on things.

“We still have a job to do, but condolences to Zahoor and his family. We hope everything works out as well as can be expected for him back in Pakistan and that we see him back here pretty soon.”

Zahoor could yet re-join the tour, although the administrative process might make it difficult.

Oman bowler Bilal Khan appeals for the wicket of UAE batsman Basil Hameed on Sunday. Courtesy Cricket Oman
Oman bowler Bilal Khan appeals for the wicket of UAE batsman Basil Hameed on Sunday. Courtesy Cricket Oman

The players have single-entry visas for Oman, and the sports authorities would have to apply for special dispensation for Zahoor to be readmitted to the country.

If that does come to pass, and he is in the right state of mind despite his bereavement, his return would be greatly welcomed as a valued member of an inexperienced side.

Zahoor is the senior pace bowler in the UAE team. He has been in such fine form of late that he even made the shortlist of players for the Indian Premier League draft last month – one of just three players from outside the Test sphere to do so.

In his absence, the national team continued their topsy-turvy start to the new league, which forms part of the qualifying process for the 2023 World Cup in India.

They lost two matches against United States in their first tri-series in the competition last month, only to bounce back with a fine win over Scotland in their most recent assignment.

They can avenge their five-wicket loss to Oman when they face Namibia in the second match of the series in Al Amerat on Monday.

To do so, they will need to improve on the batting display which saw them reduced to 27-4 against Oman, in the face of some fine swing bowling by Bilal Khan, who took three quick top-order wickets.

“I want people to be good enough to recognise a good spell, and put a high price on getting through that spell,” Brown said.

“Even the young players have played enough cricket to understand what a good spell looks like, and how to bat in an appropriate way within that spell.

“With an inexperienced side, you may see topsy-turvy performances for a period of time, but that said, we cannot use it as an excuse.

“Reading the game and being good enough to play the game situation is why we are here.”

Adnan Ilyas top scored for the home side, ending with 80 not out in the run chase.

“The boys are feeling at home here, and UAE are minus a few players and are building up again,” Duleep Mendis, the Oman coach, said.

“I’m sure UAE will carry on improving as the tour progresses, and even we have to improve, both in fielding and bowling.”