UAE secure Division Two title
Half-centuries from Saqib Ali and captain Khurram Khan helped United Arab Emirates to a five-wicket win over Namibia in the final of the ICC World Cricket League Division Two tournament at the Dubai Sports City Cricket Stadium on Friday.
Having been set a target by Namibia of 201, the hosts claimed victory after a stand-out performance from Ali who set the side up for victory before captain Khan and Amjad Javed finished proceedings. By virtue of reaching the final UAE and Namibia have now claimed 17th and 18th position in the world rankings.
UAE had been undefeated in the group stages of the event and made a strong start in the final after Namibia had won the toss and opted to bat. Both Namibian openers were removed within the first eight overs, but captain Craig Williams' 58 and contributions from Sarel Burger (42) and Raymond van Schoor helped Namibia reach 200.
Under darkening skies, UAE lost both opener Amjad Ali and Naeemuddin Aslam early in their chase to left-arm medium-pacer Kola Burger. Arshad Ali contributed a solid 30, but two wickets in the space of six balls brought Namibia right back into the game as UAE slipped to 73 for 4. Then came Ali and Khan's match-winning partnership of exactly 100, which took UAE to within striking distance of the Division 2 title.
After adding yet another half-century, Williams took his tally of runs for the tournament to 335 and earned the Player of the Tournament title. "I've worked really hard particularly since my appointment to captaincy, and I try to set an example," he said. "We are lucky to have such a well-balanced side, and the long batting line up really does take the pressure off me. As captain I hope the boys get that that they see how hard I work for them.
"I think we lost wickets at crucial moments within the game and we're going to work on it. UAE bowled 40-something overs of spin alone, so we really need to work on our response to such bowlers. In South Africa we play against quick bowlers all the time so it's something we need to work on.
"Namibia are a very good competition - they started very well today and we were worried they'd run up a total of 250 or more, which would be very hard to chase particularly on this turf," added UAE captain Khurram Khan. "But then Saqib Ali came and bowled exceptionally - with his 3-13 and I think that really turned the game around.
"There is a lot of pressure on Saqib as we know he is always going to do well and he has performed consistently throughout the tournament. He is also a good batsman and I think we had a very good partnership. Throughout the tournament our key bowlers have always been spinners - and we know that they are very good. In this one-day format we must ensure we restrict the batsmen from scoring and that's what our spin bowling attack is there for.
"On a personal note I am very proud of my team - and I don't know how much longer I'll be playing for the UAE now I'm 39. I hope to play in the Intercontinental Cup should the Development Committee select us as I'd like to see my boys through that. It will be time for me to step down soon, but who knows."
In a repeat of the Division Three finals, Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea faced each other once more with PNG romping to a 127-run win at the ICC Global Cricket Academy. The win earned PNG third place and both teams will remain in Division Two.
PNG's win was set up by a solid 55 from Asad Vala and an adventurous, unbeaten 74 from Vani Morea, which took their team to 225 for 6. Hong Kong's reply never got going, seamer Raymond Haoda providing three early breakthroughs and spinners Andrew McIntosh and Mahuru Dai sealing the result with a volley of quick wickets.
After the match 16-year-old Hong Kong batsman Mark Chapman received a reprimand and an official warning after being reported by on-field umpires Theunis van Schalkwyk and Sri Ganesh. Chapman was found to have breached Section 2.1.3 of the ICC Code, which relates to "showing dissent at an umpire's decision during an international match," and was consequently charged with a Level 1 offence.
"I hope Mr Chapman, as a young and potential player for the future, has learned that there is no place for this type of behaviour in the game and that the spirit of the game should be maintained at all times," said Match Referee Graeme La Brooy. "I also trust that in future, he will be more courteous and pay others the respect that they deserve."
With both Uganda and Bermuda assured of relegation to Division Three, they had little more than pride - and the positions of 21st and 22nd in the world rankings - in their match at the Global Cricket Academy.
Bermuda captain David Hemp held his side's innings together with 44, but Bermuda could manage only a sub-par 193 as Uganda's bowlers struck at regular intervals. Uganda lost Roger Mukasa to the very first ball of their chase and slipped to 33 for 3 before opener Arthur Kyobe and Benjamin Musoke launched the recovery with a 96-run stand for the fourth wicket. Kyobe fell to offspinner Delyone Borden to give Bermuda hope, but Musoke and Frank Nsubuga responded with a rapid partnership that sealed a five-wicket win with almost four overs to spare.
By virtue of finishing in the top four of the event, UAE, Namibia, PNG and Hong Kong will each receive dedicated ICC High Performance grants while two out of the four will play in the ICC Intercontinental Cup which commences later this year. The two teams that will compete in the Cup will be chosen by the ICC Development Committee at its next meeting.
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town