UAE and Ireland confirm big tickets to the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia on Tuesday after reaching the final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier A, at Al Amerat.
UAE stopped the three-match winning run of Nepal with a 68-run victory while Ireland beat Oman by 56 runs. At the Oman Academy ground 1, UAE exhibited a clinical performance to reach the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup for the second time. The last time UAE made it to the global showpiece event was in 2014. For Ireland, the only Full Member nation in Qualifier A, it will be their seventh appearance at the global showpiece event.
The two winning teams took the 13th and 14th spots for the tournament in Australia later this year, with the last two places to be decided at the Qualifier B in July. Chasing an imposing victory target of 176 to win, Nepal were rocked by the early strikes of UAE pacer Junaid Siddique.
The quick, was in top gear, removing the top-three Nepal batters in his three-over spell. A sensational opening over saw Siddique sending back opener Aasif Sheikh and one-down batter Lokesh Bam off two successive balls. Nepal were 3-2 in six balls and the chase looked a tall order.
Siddique then took the prize scalp of Nepal’s in-form batter Kushal Bhurtel in his second over. UAE skipper Ahmed Raza’s double-strike in the 13th over extinguished whatever hopes Nepal had as they were down to 83-6.
Raza’s golden arm found him more success to wrap up Nepal innings for 107 and his five-wicket haul earning him the player of the match award. The experienced duo of Dipendra Singh Airee (38) and Gyanendra Malla were the only batters to reach double digits.
Vriitya Aravind in sizzling form
Earlier, Vriitya Aravind, the new poster boy of UAE Cricket, continued with his blazing batting display. A whirlwind knock of 46 off 23 set the tone for his team’s impressive total. Opting to make the first use of the wicket, UAE plans to get off a fast start in the match were thwarted by Nepal bowlers.
Chirag Suri was castled by Jitendra Mukhiya, who finished with a three-wicket haul, as UAE were 6-1 in 10 balls. Opener Muhammad Waseem regained his touch and along with Aravind took the rival attack to the cleaners.
Waseem launched the first six of the game and then went on to showcase an exhibition of some powerful hitting around the park. Aravind smashed three boundaries in the fourth off Mukhiya. The 19-year-old batter was in his own zone as he produced some sizzling shots over the next few overs.
A six and a four off Abinash Bohara were followed by another six and a boundary off Nepal captain Sandeep Lamichhane. A second successive half-century was all for his taking but Lamichhane struck in his second over to end Aravind’s hurricane 23-ball innings.
The teenager had hammered 5 fours and 3 maximums. He has now scored 267 runs so far to be the leading run-getter in the qualifiers.
Waseem and Muhammad Usman then shared a stand of 64. Waseem cut loose in the 11th over smashing two boundaries and a six of Bohara. The opener reached his half-century in style with a six off Kamal Airee.
With five overs remaining, UAE were 131/2. They put the pedal on the metal but lost two wickets in the 17th over off Bohara, who dismissed Usman and Waseem.
Waseem’s 48-ball 70 was laced with 4 fours and 4 sixes. Zawar Farid’s big hits got UAE a productive over, but he perished in the same over. UAE added another 21 in the last two overs to reach 175.
Ahmed Raza, UAE Captain said: “It is a very emotional feeling. To lead the team to the Men’s T20 World Cup after six looming years. I fail to express in words the delight of playing a lead role in achieving our goal to qualify. It means a lot to us. It has been a difficult journey since missing out in 2019. We are blessed to have a talented bunch of youngsters and Vriitya has proved it as the player of the tournament. Qualifying for the Men’s T20 World Cup was an obsession for our team and glad that we could do it. It was one of those days when everything clicked for us. It was one complete performance.”
Sandeep Lamichhane, Nepal Captain said: “It was one of those days where nothing worked for us. We were totally outplayed by UAE. They played better than us in all departments of the game. Despite not making to the World Cup, I am proud of my boys. They showed great character during the Qualifiers. I am sorry to Nepal cricket fans that we couldn’t qualify. UAE kept us under pressure from the start and never let us make a comeback. All credit to them.”
Ireland ease to victory
Batting first after losing the toss, Ireland posted a total of 165/7. Gareth Delany top scored with a masterfully constructed 32-ball 47. Oman began the Powerplay well as Ireland’s usually reliable opening pair – Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie – failed them this time.
However, Delany and Harry Tector erected an 82-run fourth wicket stand to put the pressure back on the hosts. Tector was the aggressor early on, but once Delany settled in, fireworks ensued on both ends of the wicket. Skipper Zeeshan Maqsood in particular endured a difficult afternoon with the ball as Delany devoured his only over, smashing three consecutive sixes.
Bilal Khan had dismissed both the openers earlier and Kaleemullah matched his strike partner’s efforts by plotting Tector’s demise for a well-made 35. Lorcan Tucker followed suit in the very next ball, and with Khawar Ali sending Delany back in the following over, Oman had their tails up for the final stretch of the innings. With good reason too, as Ireland were placed precariously at 106/5 at the end of 14 overs. George Dockrell chipped in with a valuable 16-ball 18, but it was Andy Mcbrine that provided the fuel to take Ireland past 150. His quick-fire 36 included 3 fours and 2 sixes.
Bilal was Oman’s star performer with the ball, ending the day with figures of 3/23. In response, Oman were bowled out for 109 in 18.3 overs. Shoaib Khan was the top scorer with 30. Oman matched Ireland’s efforts in the batting Powerplay, losing both their openers cheaply. Shoaib Khan and Zeeshan Maqsood (28) steadied the ship with a 40-run partnership. Shoaib scored at a healthy pace to keep the asking rate in check. They dealt with the Irish spinners pro-actively, effusing shades of Ireland’s game-changing fourth wicket partnership earlier in the day. But once Josh Little scalped Shoaib’s wicket in the 11th over, Oman’s batting roster crumbled. Khurram Nawaz was dismissed in the same over. Khawar Ali and Naseem Khushi soon followed suit.
Receiving no support from the other end, Maqsood was tasked with winning the match all by himself. His wicket in the 15th over put an end to all hopes of a successful Omani run-chase. Ireland cleaned up over the next four overs and put the finishing touches on a well-deserved victory. Simi Singh was their top performer with the ball, recording figures of 3/20 in 3.3 overs, but all the bowlers chipped in. Josh Little, Craig Young and Andy Mcbrine claimed two wickets apiece.
Andrew Balbirnie, Ireland Captain said: “Our determination was key today. We knew that to qualify we would have to win three games. We gradually got better as the tournament got on and that’s what you have to do in tournaments. Our T20 cricket has been really inconsistent so winning three games – we knew we would have to be at our best. Today, I think was our best all-round performance.”
“The partnership between Gareth (Delany) and Harry (Tector) was crucial and set us up well. Obviously, Andy Mcbrine carried that momentum forward too so I was very happy with that. We are in a really good place as a team. The guys that aren’t playing are pushing the guys that are, day in day out. We don’t have a whole lot of cricketers to choose from but the ones we are choosing are doing a great job. The pressure in this tournament was something we hadn’t experienced in a while so I’m really relieved that we were able to come out on the right side,” Balbirnie concluded.
Zeeshan Maqsood, Oman Captain said: “Obviously, I’m very disappointed that we weren’t able to win and go through to the World Cup. But I’m sure we will come back stronger from this defeat. We began the chase in right earnest but stumbled around the halfway stage. We will analyse the mistakes that we made and look to learn and improve from them.”
The winner of Thursday’s final between UAE and Ireland will secure a place in Group 1 of the First Round at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia later this year. They will join Sri Lanka and Namibia with the fourth team to be decided after the Qualifier B in June.
The runner-up on Thursday will join West Indies and Scotland in Group 2. The winner of Qualifier B will complete the Group 2 in June. Also on Thursday, playoff classification games will determine the final rankings of the Qualifier A. Oman take on Nepal for the third place while Canada will meet Bahrain for fifth place spot. Germany will face the Philippines for the seventh place.