Abu Dhabi: Muhammad Usman scored a maiden first class century and was involved in a 116-run fourth wicket partnership with Rameez Shahzad (63) as the UAE managed to take a vital first innings lead against Papua New Guinea (PNG) on the second day of the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup at the Shaikh Zayed Cricket Stadium on Saturday.
At stumps, the hosts were 299 for six in 104 overs with Saqlain Haider on an unbeaten 14 and Ahmad Raza on five at the crease with a lead of 105 runs.
“It feels good to have scored a century in the team’s cause. It’s a proud moment for me as it’s my first century playing for my country,” said a delighted Usman, who was the last wicket to fall for the day — bowled by Mahuru Dai for 103. Scoring at a strike rate of 56.28, Usman’s innings off 183 deliveries was laced with eleven hits to the ropes.
“When I went out there, I was just thinking of playing the whole day and play my game. Our plan was to at least get near the 300-mark at the end of the day, we lost some wickets but remain in contention,” revealed Usman, whose team resuming on the overnight score of 14 for no loss was given a perfect platform by skipper Rohan Mustafa (41) and Laxman Shreekumar (37).
The duo put on a partnership of 68 runs for the second wicket before PNG got the breakthrough in Mustafa — edging a fuller delivery from Dai to Assad Vala at first slips.
Shreekumar also followed his skipper soon, as he was bowled by Chad Soper with the scoreboard reading 80.
Shaiman Anwar’s woeful form with the bat seems to have carried from the ODIs into the four-day match. He, once again after getting a start, holed out to Lega Siaka at mid-off for 10. At lunch, UAE were 106 for 3 and later Usman and Shahzad took total control of the proceedings to get the hosts well past the 200-mark by the end of 72 overs. PNG finally managed to end the long vigil of Shahzad after he decided to give the charge to off-spinner Vala and was stumped by Tony Ura.
Later with the wicket of Usman, Dai emerged as the best bowler for PNG with figures of 32-10-83-3.
UAE skipper Mustafa hailed Usman’s knock saying, “As I said before, there is not just one person who can score big runs, there are other people who can do it. Usman played really well out there and the wicket was slow. It wasn’t easy to bat on that wicket and he did really well and very happy for him. He’s one of the players on the central contracts and I want those players to perform very well. He showed his class and did a great job for team.”
Mustafa was also confident of his bowlers running through PNG batting line again and sealing the win.
“The ball is coming a little bit slow but we are in a good position and I think the game is in our hands. We have four wickets remaining and we are very much in with a chance to win. We have a group of bowlers who can take 10 wickets easily. Let’s hope for the best.”
Brief Scores: PNG 1st innings 194 all out in 85.3 overs. Day 2: UAE 299 for 6 in 104 overs. (Muhammed Usman 103, Rohan Mustafa 41, Laxman Shreekumar 37, Rameez Shahzad 63, Saqlain Haider 14*, Ahmad Raza 5*, 104 overs).