Essex v Fly Emirates, Pro Arch Trophy, Sharjah March 17, 2009

Essex survive scare in opening win

Mark Pennell in Sharjah

Essex 278 for 4 (ten Doeschate 81*, Walker 50) beat Fly Emirates 277 for 6 (Arshad Ali 109*) by six wickets

Essex were pushed to their limits by a team of amateur players representing the Pro Arch Trophy sponsors, Emirates Airline, but survived a double injury scare to go on and post a six-wicket win on a steamy evening in Dubai.

Though temperatures reached almost 90 degrees at the start of the game, Essex edged home in much more temperate climes under floodlights just after 10pm local time, thanks to a cool, unbeaten 81 by Ryan ten Doeschate and 50 from the debutant, Matthew Walker, as they successfully chased down the Emirates total of 277 for 6.

The Essex openers, Mark Pettini and John Maunders, added 64 at a steady rate of five-an-over until the introduction of medium pacer and man-of-the match Arshad Ali who, having scored an unbeaten century earlier in the day, then accounted for both in successive overs.

Maunders (23) scooped a simple catch to Lalith Dananayake then, 12 balls later, Pettini followed suit; pulling lamely against the same bowler he picked out Kashif Khan at short midwicket to go for 41 off 23 balls. Some 56 runs on and Varum Chopra became the third Eagles' victim, going leg before for 33 after he missed an attempted sweep against Yasin Sikander.

But the experienced fourth-wicket pair of ten Doeschate and Walker, on his competitive debut for Essex, posted 57 in attractive fashion with ten Doeschate increasing the tempo with a crisp straight six and a lofted drive over the ropes at extra cover. The partnership proved a little confusing to the 30-odd local supporters, however, as both batsmen wore shirts belonging to absent allrounder Graham Napier.

Despite suffering bouts of cramp that required treatment from physiotherapist Ashish Kaushik, Walker posted his first half-century since joining from Kent from 65 balls and in 78 minutes but was immediately forced to retire hurt with dehydration and was taken by ambulance for treatment at a local clinic.

Adam Wheater fell in the late run-chase when chipping a return catch to the bowler and James Middlebrook also limped off with a foot injury, but ten Doeschate calmed the nerves and killed hopes of a giant-killing by carrying his side to victory with 18 balls to spare.

Earlier, airline worker and part-time cricketer Arshad scored an excellent unbeaten 109 to ease Emirates to an excellent 50-over total of 277 for 6.

Arshad, a 32-year-old visa services manager, posted seven fours and four sixes during his well-paced innings. A rangy right-hander who has played four ODIs for UAE, scored a flurry of boundaries at the start of his innings but, when wickets started to fall, dug in to ensure he batted through.

He went two hours without scoring a boundary until, with overs running out, he revealed an array of strokes that took him to three figures in a rush. He took 14 off one over from seamer David Masters, made up of two fours though midwicket and a clipped six into the seats at deep square leg, as he posted his hundred in 204 minutes and from 123 deliveries.

Masters, with 1 for 39 from his 10-over stint, was easily the most economical bowler in an inexperienced Essex attack that generally bowled too short after being asked to bowl first in temperatures approaching 90 degrees when the game started at 2.30pm local time.

Young Essex pace bowlers Jahid Ahmed (2 for 57) and Mervyn Westfield (2 for 53) were possibly deceived by the appearance of the pitch at the dusty and somewhat ramshackle Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium. Cracked, dry and shiny in appearance and seemingly like a corker at the Recreation Ground in Antigua, the surface actually lacked bounce and carry and played more like a club pitch in Cork on a wet Wednesday evening.

However Ali used all his local knowledge and nous to carry the Emirates' side through to their very respectable total, aided by decent contributions from vice captain Amjad Javed (40), Saby Fernandes (44) and Kashif Khan (32).

Mark Pennell is a freelance journalist who will be covering the Pro Arch Trophy for Cricinfo