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Ali Naseer receiving the man of the match award after guiding UAE to victory in the Twenty20 World Cup Qualifier Final on Monday. Image Credit: Source: ECB

Dubai: UAE got off to a positive start in their quest for a place in the Twenty20 World Cup 2024 with a five-wicket win over Bahrain in the Asia Qualifier Final in Nepal on Monday. The architect of the team’s success against a tricky opponent was teenager Ali Naseer.

All-rounder Naseer might be still a rookie in international arena, but has the positive attitude and a firm gameplan to excel. “I have to stay one step ahead of the batter when I am bowling and as a batter one step ahead of the bowler, which is key to be successful in Twenty20 format,” Nasser said after scoring a 26-ball 48 against Bahrain.

Naseer made his debut against the West Indies at Sharjah in June and showcased his batting prowess immediately, scoring two half-centuries in the first two games.

Mixing the variations

In the last five months, the 19-year-old has faced many international opposition, including the 2019 World Cup finalists New Zealand in 50-over contests.

The learning curve continued, as he became part of the UAE Twenty20 team, where he felt that he has made rapid progress in his bowling. “My role is to come in the middle overs and try to build the pressure by bowling a lot of dot balls. It becomes difficult as the batters always try to attack. So I have tried really hard on being consistent in line and length and love mixing it with variations,” he said, adding that he likes the role of the finisher where he comes late to score the quick runs.

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Ali Naseer hits one of his three sixes during his unbeaten 48 against Bahrain. Image Credit: Source: ECB

“I got a chance to bat at No 6 against Bahrain and scored 48 runs in 20-odd balls. I am happy with the progress I have made.”

It’s an important win for the UAE who had lost to Bahrain in the last Twenty20 World Cup qualifiers in Oman and also in the Gulf Championship recently. UAE are aiming to book their place in the Twenty20 World Cup after qualifying for the 2022 Twenty20 World Cup in Australia, where they created history after scoring their first win, defeating Namibia.

UAE even ran close to the Netherlands, who had beaten South Africa and Bangladesh. The UAE leg-spinner Karthik Meiyappan also entered the history books in the tournament by becoming the first UAE bowler to claim a hat-trick, achieving the feat against Sri Lanka.

Good preparations

UAE are in Group B in the 2024 World Cup qualifiers along with Bahrain, Hong Kong, Kuwait, while Group A consists of Nepal, Singapore, Oman, Malaysia.

The UAE had a good preparations for the qualifiers, defeating hosts Nepal in the tri-series final last week. “We are excited at this incredible opportunity of doing well in the qualifiers. We have worked very hard in recent days and months and our tri-series in Nepal was excellent preparation for the qualifiers. We have a capable team, full of experienced performers and some outstanding youngsters who have already impressed all with their talent and skill,” UAE skipper Muhammad Waseem told ICC website on the eve of the tournament.

“Qualifying for the ICC Men’s T20 World 2024 will be a huge achievement for us. We had a memorable time in Australia in last year’s T20 World Cup and gained invaluable experience, playing against some of the best players from around the world. We want to continue our upward curve and prove to the world that we have what it takes.”

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UAE team are on a high after winning the tri-series final against Nepal last week. Image Credit: Source: ECB

Electing to field, UAE dismissed Bahrain to a paltry 135 for six with Junaid Siddique and teenager Aayan Afzal Khan claiming two wickets each. In reply, the UAE were in trouble at 24 for three before useful contributions from Asif Khan and Alishan Sharufu took the team closer to the target before Nasser gave the finishing touches.

Nepal cruise to eight-wicket win

In the other matches, hosts Nepal cruised to a eight-wicket win over Singapore, Oman beat Malaysia by 32 runs and Hong Kong scoring a 16-run win over Kuwait. UAE will be facing Kuwait in their next clash on Tuesday and with Hong Kong on Thursday.

“As a team we are confident and believe that we can beat any team that is qualify on our day. Obviously, we expect teams like Hong Kong, Nepal and Oman to be the strongest teams in the tournament and we prepare accordingly. But at the same time we won’t take any team lightly.”