The United Arab Emirates (UAE) needs a clean sweep of its crucial Pepsi ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Championship double-header against Namibia to keep its hopes for automatic qualification to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 alive when the two sides face off on 27 and 29 September at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Currently sitting in fifth spot (14 points), the UAE will leapfrog Scotland, Afghanistan (15 points each) and the Netherlands (18 points) into second position if it wins both ODIs. In this scenario, the UAE would join Netherlands on 18 points, but be ranked ahead of the Dutch based on the number of matches won.
In so doing, the UAE would knock the Netherlands out of the race for the critical second position, but will have to wait for Afghanistan to play its final round matches against Kenya on 2 and 4 October to know whether it will keep hold of the critical second spot.
If the UAE loses either ODI, it will be out of contention for the second and final direct qualification spot for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. If Afghanistan also loses one of its two matches, then it too will drop out of the race, and Netherlands will become the second team, alongside Ireland, to qualify from this tournament to the ICC’s flagship 50-over event.
Despite the high stakes, the UAE captain Khurram Khan said his side was not overawed by the possibility of qualifying for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. "A lot of cricket needs to be played before we know which will be the second side to qualify for the ICC Cricket World Cup from this event. We need to play our best cricket in the forthcoming matches against Namibia, win those matches and then start thinking about the World Cup.
"The boys are in good form and the side looks to be in a good rhythm. Our performance against Namibia last week in the ICC intercontinental Cup match has lifted our spirits and provided us good build-up, but not the match practice as we had hoped as we were able to win inside two days. But a win always does good to the confidence and morale of the side, and we'll try to carry that winning momentum into these crucial matches."
Khurram said his side will once again be relying on the spinning quartet of Nasir Aziz, Shadeep Silva, Ahmed Raza and himself. "Spinners have been our strength in this competition and they have not only performed consistently in home conditions but also on away tours. But these spinners have been very well backed up by the batsmen. I would say we have performed well as a unit.
"Sharjah is our home ground and we have played a lot of cricket here. In addition to this, the hot and humid conditions will give us an added advantage. I could see the Namibians struggle in these conditions during the ICC Intercontinental Cup and we would like to cash in on this home advantage.
"Namibia is a young side and we don't know much about the players. Therefore, it is important that we stick to the plan, don't try to be over-enthusiastic, and play to our strengths. I'm sure if we achieve these targets, then we'll be able to win both the matches that, in turn, will put added pressure on Afghanistan in the last two matches of the tournament."
Namibia captain Raymond van Schoor said that his side is ready for the pressure of the upcoming matches. “We had a few practice sessions, practicing some specific points, so we are ready for the two games coming up. As any other team, we are going to play hard and do the things that we didn't perfect in the four day game to the best of our ability.”
Van Shoor felt that, despite losing to the UAE in their recent ICC Intercontinental Cup clash, players such as Christoffel Viljoen, who is the highest wicket-taker to date in the ICC Intercontinental Cup, have shown that Namibia has the depth required to perform well in the 50-over matches.
“Christi is one of our key players, and we all love it when someone in the team does well. We will need to play as a team and then all the rest will fall into place. We have the talent on tour, and the coaching staff and I back every person in the squad to give us a good two games.”
Van Schoor says the recent ICC Intercontinental Cup encounter has helped the side become accustomed to the Sharjah conditions. “I will say it isn't the easiest pitch to play on, but we worked out how to play and to do that we need to be on top of our game.”
The upcoming matches between UAE and Namibia, and Afghanistan and Kenya will be streamed live atwww.icc-cricket.com and on the official ICC YouTube Channel, http://www.youtube.com/CricketICC.
Pepsi ICC WCL Championship squads
UAE (from) – Khurram Khan (captain), Saqib Ali, Shaiman Anwar, Muhammad Azam, Nasir Aziz, Mehrooz Khan, Rohan Mustafa, Muhammad Naveed, Swapnil Patil, Ahmed Raza, Saqib Hussain Shah, Muhammad Shafiq, Kamran Shahzad and Shadeep Silva
Namibia (from) – Raymond van Schoor (captain), Stephan Baard, Christopher Coombe, Michau Du Preez, Zane Edward Green, Jean Pierre Kotze, Xander Pitchers, Bernard Scholtz, Nicolaas Scholtz, JJ Smit, Christiaan Frank Snyman, Louis Van Der Westhuizen, Christoffel Viljoen and
Helao Ya France
Umpires – Enamul Hoque and Sarika Siva Prasad
Match referee – Steve Bernard
Both the matches will start at 1400 local time (1000 GMT)
Pepsi ICC WCL Championship (remaining seventh round fixtures)
27 Sep – 1st 50-over match, Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah
29 Sep – 2nd 50-over match, Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah
Both matches will start at 1400 local time (1000 GMT)
2 Oct – 1st ODI, Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah
4 Oct – 2nd ODI, Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah
Both matches will start at 1000 local time (0600 GMT)