Alishan award
Opener Alishan Sharafu win the player of the match award after his unbeaten 55 guided UAE into Premier Cup final. Image Credit: Source: ECB X

Dubai: Nepal has been UAE’s bogey team in recent times and young UAE opener Alishan Sharafu and UAE pacers Junaid Siddique, Omid Rahman and Ali Naseer propelled the national team to a convincing six-wicket in the semi-finals of the ACC Premier Cup at Al Ameerat ground in Oman on Friday.

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

Sharafu continued with his impressive form to score an unbeaten 55 to steer the UAE past a tricky, low target after the bowlers restricted Nepal to 119 for nine in 20 overs. Despite losing the dependable opener and skipper Muhammad Waseem early, Sharafu stitched three useful partnerships to take UAE into the final.

Quick learner

It has been collective effort on the bowling front with all the six UAE bowlers having at least a wicket to their credit. Veteran pacer Junaid Siddique, off-spinner Basil Hameed and young all-rounder Ali Naseer finished with two wickets each.

Success is about learning quickly from a mistake and ensuring that it is not repeated. The UAE team followed that principle to turn the tables on Nepal, who had a better head to head record between the teams.

Alishan action
Alishan Sharafu has been maintaining his consistency through out the ACC Premier Cup and has remained unbeaten in three of the five innings. Image Credit: Source: ECB X

“The job is not done yet. The ultimate goal when we boarded the flight is to win the title. It feels great that I have helped my side win this match. We were on top of our game to reach the final, but we have the final step to cross and need to put up an even better performance in the final,” Sharafu, who has led the UAE to Plate title in the Under-19 World Cup, told Gulf News from Oman, not getting carried away by the initial success while having the focus firmly on winning the cup and booking a place in the 2025 Asia Cup.

Bat as deep as possible

The 21-year-old has taken his game to a new level after moving to the opener slot. In the last six innings, Sharafu has remained unbeaten on three occasions with scores of 55, 21 and 90 in the opener while he got dismissed by Bahrain for 78 and the lone failure came in the rain-affected match against hosts Oman.

Sharafu too learnt a lesson the hard way when he threw away his wicket when hosts UAE were just six runs away from winning the first of the three-match Twenty20 series against Scotland at Dubai International Stadium. The young opener was given a proper lecture by coach Lalchand Rajput and captain Waseem.

“Since then I tried to bat as deep as possible and remain not out and finish the game if the situation allows me to do that,” Sharafu said, echoing the mantra of coach Rajput, who has been emphasising and trying to incorporate the Mumbai Khadoos (stubborn) culture among the batters. The former Indian opener wanted a set batter to bat till the end, which will help the team to secure one end up while allowing a free flow of runs.

UAE pacer Junaid Siddique celebrates the wicket of Nepal opener Kushal Bhurtel off the first ball of the match. Image Credit: Source: ECB X

Against Nepal, this mindset came in handy on a tricky wicket where it was not easy to play the shot from the start. Nepal were guilty of trying to go on the offensive very early and lost three wickets by the end of the seventh over with just 38 runs on the board after Siddique got the wicket off the first ball of the match.

“The bowlers really bowled really well. If you take early wickets then it makes a difference. Junaid and young pacer Omid getting early wickets put Nepal under pressure and with more wickets at regular intervals, it increased the pressure on the batting unit. That’s what we did,” said Rajput, who was happy that UAE were able to buck the trend against Nepal and book a place in the final.

A confidence booster

“It’s a great feeling to be in the final after missing out in the last few years. Beating Nepal is a good motivation for us and has boosted our confidence, which should help us see through the final as well.”

Rajput was also effusive in his praise for Sharafu, who was adjudged the player of the semi-finals.

“Sharafu has been very consistent in this tournament, which is a pretty good sign. He has the talent and the potential and but has been getting out in 30s and 40s. We have been telling him that he has to put a price on his wicket and throw away your wicket, that’s very important. Now he has been reaping the fruits of that hard work,” the 62-year-old coach added.

In the final, UAE will be meeting hosts and fellow Groub B rivals Oman, who beat Hong Kong by five wickets in the second semi-final on Friday. Veteran top-order batter stayed strong with an unbeaten 62 to guide Oman past a tricky total with just four balls to spare.

The winners will be sealing the lone spot in the 2025 Asia Cup Twenty20 tournament.