UAE wins first of two do-or-die matches

Dubai, Sept 27, 2013: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has kept its chances alive for direct qualification to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 by defeating Namibia by 158 runs in their first 50-over match of the final round of the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Championship at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Friday.

With only the top two teams in the WCL Championship earning direct qualification to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, the UAE needs a clean sweep of its do-or-die double-header against Namibia to stay in the race, and it got off to a convincing start by winning the critical first encounter thanks to spinners Khurram Khan, Shadeep Silva and Ahmed Raza, who claimed nine wickets for 26 runs between them.

The win takes the Emiratis to third on the Championship table, with the second and final 50-over match to be played on Sunday, also at Sharjah Cricket Stadium. Should the UAE win Sunday’s crucial clash, it will join the Netherlands on 18 points but bump the Netherlands out of second spot based on the number of matches won, thereby knocking the Dutch out of contention for the crucial second position.

In this scenario, the UAE will reduce the race for the final automatic qualification spot to two teams, with Afghanistan, currently ranked fourth, the only team that can overtake the UAE.

However, if the UAE loses Sunday’s 50-over match, it will be out of the running for the second and final direct qualification spot to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.

In Friday’s match, Shaiman Anwar, the tournament’s second highest run-scorer, posted the highest score of the match (54) to help the UAE to a total of 197 all out. Namibia’s response was smothered by the UAE’s spinners, with Khurram Khan, Shadeep Silva and Ahmed Raza claiming three wickets each to help dismiss Namibia for 39 in twenty-five overs.

UAE coach and former Pakistan fast bowler Aqib Javed was delighted with his side’s performance under pressure. “The bowlers held up really well in the conditions, and I was particularly pleased with Shadeep Silva’s performance.

“The batting in the middle order was also very good, Rohan Mustafa and Mohammad Shafiq did an excellent job. And of course so did Shaiman Anwar, and he is now only a few runs off being the leading run-scorer of the tournament.”

Aqib felt that the pressure of trying to qualify for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 will be less intense for the second 50-over match on Sunday. “This win has really taken the pressure off us. Today’s performance was really pleasing, the batting in the middle order was good and the spinners did well. We are looking forward to Sunday’s match.”

Namibia coach Doug Watson was philosophical about his side’s loss. “The ICC Intercontinental Cup loss earlier in the week didn’t affect our performance today. We were ready for today’s match, we just didn’t bat well. It’s a young team and the boys were ready and enthusiastic, but the batting let us down.”

Watson was, however, pleased with Namibia’s performance in the field: “I am happy with the bowling and fielding in the first innings. We will just have to take this as a steep learning curve as we prepare for Sunday’s match.”

While the top two sides from the Pepsi ICC WCL Championship will qualify automatically for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, the bottom six teams will receive a second chance to advance at next year’s ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand, when they will lock horns with Hong Kong, Nepal, Papua New Guinea and Uganda for the final two spots in the ICC’s flagship 50-over tournament. —- ICC

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