DUBAI // The UAE's troika of experienced campaigners - Saqib Ali, Khurram Khan and Arshad Ali - came to the fore yesterday, guiding their team to the International Cricket Council's World Cricket League Division Two title with a five-wicket win over Namibia.
Saqib struck with his second ball of the game, taking the prized scalp of Player of the Tournament Craig Williams (58) and breaking his 93-run partnership with Sarel Burger (42).
He took two more wickets in his third over and then returned to anchor UAE's run-chase with a solid 73.
After bowling Namibia out for 200, were two down for 14, but Saqib and Arshad added 73 for third wicket before captain Khurram (60 not out) took centre-stage. He and Saqib were involved in a 100-run partnership for the fifth wicket that sealed the fate of the game.
"At one stage it looked like they are going to score 250, but Saqib bowled a splendid spell of four overs, taking three wickets," Khurram said. "Nasir Aziz [3-33] later on bowled very well.
"In the batting, Saqib again and myself, I scored a few runs, and Arshad Ali. I think it was a wonderful team effort."
At the start of the tournament, Saqib seemed to be going through a leant trot. He scored a nine and duck in the first two games, but pressure always seems to bring the best out of him.
"I had not scored many runs in the first few games, so I was feeling a bit odd," said the man of the match. "This being the final, it felt really good to get some runs and important wickets as well.
"I enjoy performing under pressure. After playing for so long, I am a bit used to playing under pressure now.
"In that situation, a challenging one, if you can bring the team out of it, it is really pleasing. So I always try my best to do that."
The last time UAE won the Division Two, in 2007, Kabir Khan was the coach of the side. When he returned to the team, after guiding Afghanistan to one-day international status, his first objective was to regain the crown.
"To be honest, when I was applying for the job, one of the aims I sent to the board in my email was that I want them to win Division Two and then go to top eight," said the former Pakistan speedster.
"That's part of my dreams; that's part of the aim I came with and I am very, very happy.
"I thank Allah that He has given me this chance to celebrate a Division Two win again with this team. I won Division Two with them three years ago. So this is a big achievement for me and for the UAE as well.
"The boys played really well. We've had a very tough last two-three months in training. The board has also been very keen on this and they have given us every facility we needed for the camp and practice matches.
"So the results are coming because of that; we had some really tough training sessions for this tournament."
The UAE's celebration will, however, have to wait for a bit. Two teams from this tournament will be promoted to the Intercontinental Cup and the ICC Development Committee will make that decision at their meeting in the first week of May in Botswana.
"The thing is, you can only do what is in your hands," said Kabir. "Whatever is not in our hands, we cannot say anything about it.
"We have done our part and it is up to the ICC and whoever decides it. So we cannot say anything about it," he added.