ICC Trophy, Ireland, 2005 July 2, 2005

Bermuda battle back against UAE

When you come to watch the ICC Trophy, it's not just a matter of jumping in the car and heading to the ground. With six games on each day, you are spoilt for choice. Short on time after taking in the morning's first priority, the All Blacks-Lions rugby Test, I opted today for Lisburn, a stone's throw from Belfast, where United Arab Emirates met Bermuda.

In 1986 a thousand people crammed into Wallace Park when Ian Botham blazed a century off 37 balls during the Lisburn Cricket Club's 150-year celebrations. In the last week of July each year, Bermuda has a two-day public holiday dedicated to playing cricket and providing the ultimate party for thousands of Bermudians.

Contrast today where just a handful of spectators had arrived for the first ball, and the rustle of the wind through vast belts of greenery outside the boundary provided the loudest noise, as Bermuda struggled along on a wicket doing plenty. The UAE pacemen extracted sharp seam movement in the first hour and the spinners got it turn later on.

Things seemed pretty grim for Bermuda at 105 for 6 until Dean Minors, their wicketkeeper, was able to hang around with Albert Steed. When Steed was dismissed in the 45th over, with Bermuda's total sitting uncomfortably at 158, their all-rounder Saleem Mukuddem whispered to me "this boy can hit them".

Mukuddem was referring to Lionel Cann and his assessment was not wrong. In 17 balls Cann smashed 45 courtesy of the UAE bowlers feeding his favoured cow-corner slog. The shout of "timber" from one pumped-up fan after each of Cann's four sixes was surely something unique.

All of a sudden it was game on prompting Gus Logie, Bermuda's coach, to say at the break, "I'd rather have the runs on the board than be chasing them". Logie's counterpart, Abid Ali, the former Indian international, saw it differently, saying 218 was a target UAE should get and at 67 for 1 they were in control.

Enter man-of-the-match Dwayne Leverock, built more like a Bermudian version of David Boon than the athletes demanded by the professional game that the teams in the ICC Trophy aspire to. Leverock lured Arshad Ali, UAE's star batsman, out of his crease with his cunning left-arm spin to start a memorable and decisive passage of play.

When Leverock wasn't probing and having batsmen caught he was snaffling catches at slip. When he displayed skilful foot juggling skills, after his second snare, the now hundred-strong crowd looked over at the scoreboard that read a scarcely-believable 84 for 6.

At another level, one where one-dayers are a dime-a-dozen, it may have been all over for UAE but this is no ordinary competition. Aside from a daily allowance these guys receive nothing for playing and can only play if they can get time off work. Playing for your country in a tournament of this significance - there's funding from the ICC on the line for the five that qualify for the next World Cup - really means something and Fahad Usman, UAE's No.7, typified just that.

Usman put his side in with a chance of victory with an intelligent but rapid 63. Looking on, Bermuda's injured captain Clay Smith barked words of encouragement and when he said "it's coming baby", he was right: Usman holed out and the Bermudian celebrations erupted.

Andrew McLean is a presenter of The Cricket Club, New Zealand's only national radio cricket show