The UAE find themselves exactly where they want to be in the ICC World Twenty20 Asia Qualifiers. After opening the campaign with a six-wicket victory against Qatar on Friday the UAE wrapped up a seven-wicket win against Saudi Arabia just 24 hours later to stand top of the six-team tournament.
We look at the talking points and takeaways so far ahead of their match against Bahrain on Monday.
THE PERFECT START
On paper, they are the highest ranked nation in the first phase of the competition, but head coach Dougie Brown stressed the importance of hitting the ground running and ‘dominating’ the opposition before they began their campaign and the 48-year-old will be pleased they are not playing catch-up at this stage.
In the Division Two World Cricket League back in February, they were in real danger of losing their ODI status and reaching the World Cup Qualifier after back-to-back defeats to Nepal and Canada but bounced back emphatically.
By sitting top of the league with a perfect record, they have a two-point cushion over Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who all have two points each but, more importantly, they are in control of winning the event and taking one of the three qualification berths.
IMRAN HAIDER AND ASHFAQ AHMED STEPPING UP AGAIN
The Saudi batsmen struggled against the UAE bowlers with just five reaching double figures and their highest individual score being 21. While it was a team effort with Rohan Mustafa, Amir Hayat and Mohammad Naveed taking two wickets each, Imran Haider showed once again he can do the damage with spin after taking 3-6 in his four overs.
With senior player Ahmed Raza rested for the tour, Haider will be leading the attack with his spin and the 30-year-old has certainly showed he’s one of the experienced players in the squad with five scalps in two matches.
For Ashfaq Ahmed, the opener is proving to be quite a player for the UAE. He only made his debut in December 2017 but already has five half-centuries to his name in 24 appearances. He was unlucky to not add to that tally after finishing unbeaten on 46, a vast improvement after scoring 16 against Qatar.
TIME TO EXPERIMENT
With senior batsman Shaiman Anwar rested for the tournament, it has allowed the UAE to explore other options in the team.
One change has been captain Mustafa, who usually opens the innings, dropping down the batting order to No3. It was a decision taken 24 hours before the first game and it’s a position that Mustafa will continue for the entire tournament. He might not have fared well against Saudi with 10 runs, but he can still come up with the goods as shown by his match-winning 71 against Qatar on Friday.
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