National team inch closer to semi-final spot after five-wicket win in Kathmandu
UAE vs Kuwait Cricket match
Junaid Siddique of UAE celebrates a wicket during their T20 World Cup qualifier against Kuwait at the Mulpani Cricket Ground in Kathmandu on Tuesday, October 31, 2023. All images Subas Humagain for The National
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The UAE are all but assured of a place in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier after a crushing win over Kuwait in Kathmandu on Tuesday.
The national team restricted their Gulf neighbours to just 88-8 from their 20 overs in their second group match in Mulpani.
They made quick work of the chase as they sealed the win with five wickets and 34 deliveries in hand.
The eight-team competition carries with it two places for next year’s T20 World Cup in the United States and West Indies. As such, the winners of the two semi-finals in Kathmandu will book their tickets to the main event.
Having taken wins from their opening two fixtures against Bahrain and Kuwait, the national team are within touching distance of a place in the last four.
The two sides had been intrigued spectators at the end of the first match of the day in Mulpani, when Bahrain stunned Hong Kong.
Hong Kong had beaten the UAE in a fixture in a tri-series that also included Nepal which preceded this tournament. But they were soundly beaten by 20 runs by Bahrain, a country which has no turf grounds for cricket.
It means Hong Kong and Bahrain have two points in the group, with the UAE on four.
With the national team set to face Hong Kong on Thursday, and Bahrain playing Kuwait, it is possible three teams could end the group on four points. But the UAE’s rapid win over Kuwait means they have a significant run-rate advantage.
They made easy work of beating a side who had taken a shock win against them during Asia Cup qualifying in Malaysia last year.
They had to weather some resistance by their lower-ranked opposition, though, in an extraordinary start to the game.
Junaid Siddique was livid when he had an lbw appeal turned down on the opening delivery of the match.
Kuwait’s openers then ruined his mood further as they took his opening over for 11. By the end of the fourth over, Kuwait had reached 31.
The national team brought their class to bear thereafter, though, limiting their opponents to just 57 off their remaining 16 overs.
Siddique’s mood was improved vaguely as he picked up two wickets for 27. He was the most expensive of the four UAE bowlers who took two wickets.
Zahoor Khan went for just 13, Ali Naseer 14, and Nilansh Keswani, playing his first UAE match in a notable tournament, conceded just 16 runs in taking his wickets.
Aware of the importance of a quick chance towards the potential tiebreaker of net run rate, the UAE went on the attack in reply.
Forcing the issue was not entirely easy on a pitch that was showing wear after the number of matches which have been played at the venue in recent weeks.
Khalid Shah and Muhammad Waseem shared 50 in five overs for the first wicket, but the team stuttered when the former was bowled by the left-arm spin of Yasin Patel.
The regular fall of wickets meant the chase took longer than they would have liked, but they did reach the target in the 15th over with Basil Hameed hitting a six over the fence to settle it.
In the other group, Oman and Nepal are assured of playing in the semi-finals, as each have won both of their matches.
Oman beat Singapore by 22 runs in the opening game of the day at Tribhuvan University, successfully defending 174. Kushal Malla then thrilled the home crowd as he hit six sixes in reaching a half century in 27 balls in Nepal’s run chase against Malaysia.
Updated: October 31, 2023, 3:28 PM