Naziz leads spirited defence as UAE seal entry into World Twenty20

Nasir Aziz led a stout bowling attack to defend 117, taking three wickets for 21 as UAE topped Netherlands by 10 runs on Wednesday and clinched their spot at the 2014 World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.

Two Netherlands players were run out during their defeat against the UAE at the World Twenty20 in Abu Dhabi yesterday. Delores Johnson / The National
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ABU DHABI // An 18-year wait for an appearance at a major ICC tournament was ended by the UAE on Wednesday as the side won their way through to the 2014 World Twenty20.

They defended a small target of 117 against traditional associate heavyweights Netherlands, and scripted, from a division not short of remarkable stories, another one.

Khurram Khan’s men will be one of the few amateur teams playing in Bangladesh next year, composed of men who, in the truest sense, are playing purely because they love the game and not because they make a living from it.

It will be their first time at such an event since the 1996 World Cup.

Fittingly, for a side infused with personnel from all parts of the subcontinent, their 10-run win in Abu Dhabi was built in the fashion of sides such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Having batted poorly, they proceeded to strangle the Netherlands’ response with a combination of spin and pace.

“Definitely over the moon,” was Khurram’s first reaction. “It was a wonderful, wonderful performance from the guys. I mean, 117 and, yes, the wicket was a little on the slower side, but they bowled their hearts out. Amazing. It was just amazing bowling, I haven’t seen a display like this.”

When they batted, only Khurram looked capable of taking them to a par score and once he fell for an aggressive 32 halfway through the 11th over, the innings got bogged down. Mohammad Shafiq and Asim Khurshid dragged them on, but the total still felt hugely inadequate.

That it was not was due solely to the defence Shadeep Silva and Manjula Guruge set up; the pair bowled the first six overs for just 21 runs and two wickets. Silva, player of the match, started with a maiden, and until the last ball of his quota was hit for six, he had conceded just three runs.

The plan, he said, was to bowl “wicket to wicket, keep it straight and tight in those first six overs”.

Pushing him close for the match award must have been Nasir Aziz, a man who cannot currently be kept away from the action at all.

He was cited for a suspect action – and cleared – earlier in the tournament, but is now their leading wicket-taker with 13.

He was all over the Netherlands in the field: three wickets, a good catch in the deep and a hand in two run-outs. Arguably, it was the stunning reflex catch of his own bowling, to dismiss the dangerously well-set Ben Cooper, that turned the game finally in the UAE’s favour.

After the win, the coach Aaqib Javed took his side back out just beyond the boundary ropes, sat them down and took a moment to take in the enormity of what they had achieved. Aaqib’s role itself has been central, presiding over a smooth, successful tenure, which continues tomorrow with a semi-final against Ireland.

“They know how to bat, they know how to bowl,” Aaqib said.

“Making them a team, putting a team together that is what coaching is and in two years, I have not had a single problem with any player, management or anything.”

This is enormous, he said.

Even more when they reach Bangladesh.