Muhammad Waseem and Aayan Khan lead fightback as UAE claim precious win over PNG

muhammad waseem and aayan khan lead fightback as uae claim precious win over png

Muhammad Waseem, left, Aayan Khan and Karthik Meiyappan each played vital roles as the UAE beat PNG in the Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-off in Windhoek. Victor Besa / The National

The UAE twice fought back from a position of peril to make a fine start to the Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-off in Namibia.

The national team eventually signed off on a 21-run win over Papua New Guinea in their opening game at the Wanderers in Windhoek.

Even so early in the competition, it was a vital blow struck by a side who have been beset by problems in recent times.

The six-team event carries with it two places in the next stage of the World Cup competition process, which is the global Qualifier in Zimbabwe in June and July.

Because of an alarming slump in results of late, the UAE are also playing for ODI status in Windhoek. They have to finish in the top two out of four teams – the others being PNG, Jersey and Canada – to be assured of that.

Victory in their opener means the UAE are now well placed, but they took the scenic route to earning the two points.

Having been invited to bat first, the UAE were in trouble at the start of their innings. Chad Soper, who has been their tormentor so often in the recent past, took all four wickets as the national team were reduced to 51 for four.

Muhammad Waseem led the resistance. The UAE captain finished four runs short of a second one-day international century – and a second in successive games against PNG – when he chipped up a catch to Tony Ura off Semo Kamea’s left-arm pace.

Once he was parted from his captain, after sharing in an 80-run alliance with him, Aayan Khan took the responsibility on himself for dragging his side to a defendable total.

He, too, finished agonisingly short of a century. He was at the non-striker’s end on 94 not out when the UAE innings closed on 260 for seven.

Had the Sharjah-raised all-rounder managed six more, he would have become the second youngest ODI centurion in history – aged 17 years and 132 days – after Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi.

Posting a target of 261 represented success from the position the UAE had found themselves in at the start, but it looked a paltry effort given the start PNG’s openers, Ura and Kiplin Doriga, made.

They blazed 146 for the first wicket in 20.3 overs, leaving PNG with the best part of 30 overs to make the 115 more needed to win it.

Rohan Mustafa refused to concede, though. The off-spinner prised an opening – on his way to figures of one for 17 from his 10 overs – and Karthik Meiyappan then bowled the UAE back into the game.

The leg-spinner took four wickets in a hurry to rock PNG, and they failed to recover their poise. They eventually succumbed to 239 all out with nine balls remaining.

“We put up a good total but their openers played very well,” Waseem said.

“I really didn’t want to lose this match and I was telling the boys to be ready, one wicket will come and the match could be changed. That was the result.”

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