Dubai: Veteran skipper Muhammad Waseem and teenager Aayan Khan launched a stunning counter-attack to pull UAE out of trouble while leg-spinner Karthik Meiyappan claimed a four-wicket haul to complete an incredible comeback as they scored a 21-run win over Papua New Guinea in the ICC World Cup Qualifier Playoff at Windhoek on Monday.
Chasing an under-par target of 261, the first half of the innings once again belonged to PNG, who raced to 146 for no loss in 20.2 overs. Another veteran and former skipper Rohan Mustafa once again did the trick for UAE as he broke the threatening partnership between Tony Ura and Kiplin Doriga, after which Karthik took charge to pick up four straight wickets to leave PNG reeling at 162 for five, from where the southern Pacific nation couldn’t recover.
“Great result in must-win game. PNG put up a great fight, with 145 for no loss and for our bowlers to come back and get them at 230 is incredible,” the leg-spinner, who had claimed a hat-trick against Sri Lanka in the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia told in a video posted by Emirates Cricket Board on its social media handle. “We know the PNG batters are going to come hard at us and to get them all out of 238 is an absolutely brilliant comeback. It is good for me to chip in with wickets and contribute for team’s win getting four wickets and that’s when the momentum completely changed. Zahoor getting those three wickets is also incredible.”
Put in to bat, Waseem, the man with the big match temperament, once again stood firm as he watched UAE lose cream of their batting for just 89 runs. The talented Aayan Khan, who has been making rapid strides since making his debut against Bangladesh last year, proved the perfect foil for his skipper, who was batting on 47 when the teenager joined him. The duo put on 80 runs for the sixth wicket in little over 15 overs, which tilted the contest towards the UAE.
Undeterred by the loss of Waseem (96), Aayan and another talented youngster Karthik adding another 90 runs for the seventh wicket, with the former being the aggressor in the partnership, during which Karthik could only add 24. The right-hander missed what would have been a deserving century as he was stranded on 94 not out at the end of 50 overs, but he must have been happy that he has done the job.
“Aayan and Waseem put up an important partnership and Aayan is rightly adjudged the man of the match. It was a crucial phase for us after losing early wickets. My 90-run partnership with Aayan was crucial for us to get to 260 on a pretty good wicket,” added Karthik. “Looking forward to the remaining four games.”
The victory has given UAE the momentum in the tournament where only the top two will go though to the next qualifiers to be held in Zimbabwe. UAE are in third spot in the table while Canada, who beat Jersey by 37 runs in the other match of the day, in second position.
USA, who dented hosts Namibia’s dreams with an 80-run win on Sunday, are topping the table on better run rate after all three teams have played one match each.
The UAE will have to continue their winning run in the next two crucial games, where they will meet USA on Thursday and Canada on Saturday.