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Dubai: UAE made a big statement that an Associate Nation cannot be taken lightly and strengthened their position among the world elite when the hosts defeated Sri Lanka by two wickets in the Asia Cup Under-19 in Dubai on Monday.

In a must-win match to keep their semi-finals hopes alive, top-order batter Tanish Suri and skipper Aayan Afzal Khan were the architect of UAE’s victory in a match that saw a dramatic finish.

“The victory feels good and we were the better side on the day. I had full faith in my team and thanks to all the staff who supported us for achieving this victory.

Wins over Test nations

The UAE have been making rapid strides in world cricket in the last two years. The team under Alishan Sharufu clinched the Under-19 World Cup Plate final after defeating the West Indies. The senior team followed it up with another stunning show by winning the Twenty20 World Cup qualifiers in Oman and recorded their maiden T20 World Cup win by defeating Namibia in Australia.

“In the last two three years we have been able to defeat many strong teams around world. I was part of the team that defeated West Indies two years ago. We defeated New Zealand, Sri Lanka and then we have beat Bangladesh. It is just an eye opener for all the teams around the world. Thanks to ECB’s efforts were are able to do well in all top ICC events and at Under-19 level as well,” Aayan added.

Chasing a moderate target of 221 to win, UAE got off to a brisk start with Aryansh Sharma in great touch. But his untimely exit brought Tanish, who started dictating the Sri Lankan bowling from the start.

Showing a lot of maturity and composure, Tanish showcased his skills that was a marked improvement to his knock against Bangladesh. But within sight of a century, Tanish paid the price for misjudgement, pulling a short-pitched delivery into the hands of deep square leg, falling into the trap set by Garuka Sankethi, who was the best bowler for Sri Lanka with three wickets.

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Tanish Suri showcased his class with a perfect knock that set the foundation for UAE's chase against Sri Lanka. Image Credit: Source: ECB

Different approach

“After Aryansh wicket, Sri Lanka were on top of the game. My only thought when I went in was not to repeat the mistake I did against Bangladesh, where I was in a hurry. My only plan was to play longer and take it deeper. Chasing 200-plus target, it is important for one batter to stay longer. So that’s my strategy,” said an elated Tanish after making a crucial contribution to the team’s victory.

“I was middling the ball pretty well today. I was aware of the trap set by Sri Lanka. I ducked under the first bouncer, but the ball had extra bounce and bounced off the edge,” added Tanish, who scored an 88-ball 75 that included three sixes. “We lost to Bangladesh due to some silly mistakes, that includes me. This win against Sri Lanka will be big boost to the games ahead. These wins have made the dressing room a vibrant place for the future generations to build on.”

Skipper Aayan, who went in to bat at a critical juncture, brought hosts to within 11 runs off the target with a battling 33, but paid the price for playing another ambitious shot, a scoop that landed in the hands of a waiting third man. That caused a mini collapse when next man Hardik Pai was adjudged leg-before. But Ayman Ahamed played a cameo in the company of Ammar Badami to take UAE past the target.

Taking the game deep

“I have been on similar situations with the senior team before. I had a bit a plan in my mind and senior team skipper Waseem had instructed me to take the game deep, which is what I followed on a wicket that was easy to bat on,” added the 19-year-old all-rounder who had made his senior team debut against Bangladesh last year.

Talking about losing his wicket, Aayan said he would not change his approach and backed himself to come good in those situations.

“My plan was to hit all around the ground and when I got a short-pitched delivery, I played my favourite shot instinctively. Thankfully, the target was only 10 runs at the moment,” he said, adding: “I will not change my approach and will play the shot in the future games as well.

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UAE all-rounder Aayan Khan with the player of the match award for his battling 33 and two wickets. Image Credit: Source: ECB

Things could have gone worse had Sri Lanka held a sitter off Badami when two runs were needed. But in the end, the win with 10 balls to spare triggered a huge celebrations from the Under-19 and the senior UAE team members and fans alike.

Match-saving innings

Aayan shone with the ball to restrict Sri Lanka to an under-par target on a wicket that had some swing and turn. The visitors from point of strength at 112 for two, lost wickets at regular intervals after the untimely run out of skipper Sineth Jayawardene. The Sri Lankans lost five wickets for 46 runs and a match-saving innings by Dinura Kalupahana, 56 not out, gave them a fighting total.

UAE will be playing Japan in their next encounter and win should take them closer to the semi-finals. Should Bangladesh beat Sri Lanka on Wednesday, then it is straight forward result where UAE will end up second, however should Sri Lanka win against Bangladesh, then the net run-rate will come into play.

Playing normal game

Both Tanish and Aayan are unperturbed by the permutation and combinations that could come into play after the next game and aims to keep it simple.

“We are going to play our normal game try to enjoy our game against Japan,” concluded Aayan Khan. Sometimes keeping it simple certainly helps.

In the other match of the day, Bangladesh eased to a nine-wicket victory over Japan. Chasing 100 for a win, the Tigers scored the required runs in just 11.2 overs.