By R Kaushik in Sylhet
UAE will have its task cut out in a do-or-die clash against Ireland, which is intent on securing a spot in the main draw
Ireland left it late and made heavy weather of what at various stages appeared a routine run-chase on Monday against Zimbabwe, set up by the belligerence at the top of the order of Paul Stirling and captain William Porterfield. On most days, Ireland would have sauntered to victory after having reached 100 for 1 in the 11th over in the quest for 164. That it limped home off the last delivery, with three wickets standing, was testimony to the never-say-die spirit of Zimbabwe as well as the dramatic change in conditions, with the ball darting around when the lights began to take effect towards the closing stages of the game.
On Wednesday, that is a factor Ireland won’t have to contend with, for its game is match two of the double-header, following the clash between Netherlands and Zimbabwe. In some respects, without allowing complacency to creep into its ranks, Ireland will try to use this game against the UAE for meaningful match practice ahead of what could be a straight shootout against the Netherlands on Friday, with a berth in the Super 10 of the tournament at stake.
UAE cricket has taken wing in the last two years, coinciding with the arrival as head coach of the former Pakistani paceman, Aqib Javed. Suddenly, it has become a force to reckon with among the associates, its progress reflecting in its qualification for both the first phase of the World T20 as well as to the 50-over World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year.
It is, however, still a work in progress, with several problem areas that need desperate and rapid addressing. A commonsense approach to batting and greater commitment to fielding and catching will be on top of Javed’s list. The bowling could be a little more disciplined, too, but when catches go down as frequently as they did on Monday when nearly a half-dozen, not all of them difficult, were grassed, there is only so much the bowlers can do.
UAE has a real gem in Kamran Shazad, the 33-year-old who is in the express category and who tested the Netherlands batsmen with his pace and his accuracy. There is a case for Shazad to take the new ball against Ireland, that aren’t unaccustomed to playing the short ball but whose early aggression might perforce have to be curbed if Shazad gets it right, like he did against Netherlands when he hit the bat hard and surprised the batsmen with a succession of heavy balls.
Shazad’s bowling was perhaps the lone bright spot in an otherwise forgettable night for UAE, its World T20 debut a singularly unedifying experience. Its morale might have taken a beating, but it is definitely not going to roll over against Ireland, something Khurram Khan was quick to reiterate.
“I don't think you come here all the way and then you start thinking that they are the better team, they are playing well,” the UAE captain said. “Yes, they are a good team, they have been playing very good cricket but in the end, it is a do-or-die effort for us. You have to give it everything you have. So it is going to be a good game and we will try our best.
“We have two very important games coming up now. We have to go and regroup,” added Khurram. “We lost this game but there is a lot to play for. We have to go and work on our weaknesses and think about the things we can do better. Hopefully, we'll do that in the next game. We have worked hard, let's see how it goes now from here.”
One of the big problems the smaller teams have had is to work out an approach against quality spin. Afghanistan has had its fair share of woes against the turning ball, and UAE too was found wanting against Netherlands. On Wednesday, it will have its hands full against George Dockrell, the remarkably accurate left-arm spinner, and Stirling and Andy McBrine, the two off-spinners who played such an influential role against Zimbabwe.
UAE’s lack of experience was shown up by its tendency to lose wickets in pairs, with set batsmen perishing one on the heels of the other and asking too much of those coming in. Wednesday will give the cricketing world a good idea of whether UAE is a quick learner.
Ireland: William Porterfield (capt), Alex Cusack, George Dockrell, Ed Joyce, Andy McBrine, Kevin O’Brien, Andrew Poynter, Max Sorensen, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Gary Wilson (wk), Craig Young, Tim Murtagh, Niall O’Brien (wk), James Shannon.
UAE: Khurram Khan (capt), Ahmed Raza, Amjad Ali (wk), Amjad Javed, Faizan Asif, Manjula Guruge, Kamran Shazad, Moaaz Qazi, Swapnil Patil (wk), Rohan Mustafa, Rohit Singh, Shaiman Anwar, Sharif Asadullah, Vikrant Shetty, Shadeep Silva.