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UAE skipper Esha Oza in action during the ICC Women's T20 World Cup Qualifier 2024 semi-final match against Sri Lanka at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. Image Credit: Courtesy: ICC

Dubai: It was a case of so close yet so far for the UAE women’s team when they fell agonisingly short of creating a major upset on Sunday at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Led by a fiery knock by skipper Esha Oza, who scored a 44-ball 66 including two boundaries and four sixes, UAE women’s team were short of 15 runs chasing a target of 150 against Sri Lanka in the semi-finals of the Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier.

A win would have given the UAE team a dream opportunity to be part of the showpiece event to be held in Bangladesh later this year.

Despite the disappointment the UAE team still can wrap up the tournament with their heads held high.

“I’m really proud of the girls,” head coach of UAE women’s team Ahmed Raza said. “It’s a good sign and they deserve every bit of the success.”

They didn’t have the best of the start in the tournament losing the first two matches against Ireland and Zimbabwe.

But they turned the tables around defeating Netherlands by a massive 10 wickets and then following it up with convincing win over Vanuata.

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Esha Oza celebrates with teammates after claiming a wicket during the semi-finals in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Courtesy: ICC

The two victories ensured the UAE finished second in the Group B table thus qualifying for the knockouts where they met Sri Lanka.

Raza said the team’s progress in the last couple of years has been very impressive. “We are in a good space. Despite not having an ODI status the way the girls performed, we can take a lot of positives from it. They have put in a lot of hardwork and we can see that by the results.

“If you look at the semi-finals, it could have been anybody’s game against the mighty Sri Lanka. Another 15 runs and we could have been celebrating. Nevertheless the performance has boosted the team’s confidence. It’s a young team and this kind of maturity will stand in good stead going forward.”

Oza though was disappointed with the result, she was all praise for the young team. “It was a great fight shown by the girls. It was obviously disappointing as we didn’t achieve what our target but the fight shown by the team was brilliant especially after the two losses. The way we fought against a nation that plays regularly against high-ranked teams, it showed the team’s courage.”

Oza led the most runs in the tournament chart scoring 189 runs from five matches that includes two half centuries. She also has claimed six wickets. “I’m happy that I was able to top the runs chart. but again when those runs are scored in a winning game that matters much more but I’m happy that I was able to contribute to the team and I was able to put good scores throughout the tournament.

“Overall the team is mostly made of teenagers and that’s some great spirit shown in the middle. We were playing against a team [Sri Lanka] that’s ranked seventh in the world and we are 16th. So taking the match down to the wire shows the capability the team has. So it was a pretty good performance and this will only make us stronger and make us believe that we can beat top sides in the near future,” she added.

The next assignment for the UAE women’s team is the Asia Cup to be played in Sri Lanka from July 19 to 28. The T20 tournament will be an eight-team affair divided into two groups. In Group A UAE will have Asian powerhouses India and Pakistan with Nepal while Group B will consist of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia.

The top-two teams from each group will then feature in the semi-finals on July 26, before the title clash on July 28.

“The team will be on a short break and then will be back to training for the Asia Cup. The experience gained in this tournament will give them the confidence and we hope to make it to the knockout,” Raza said.

Women’s Asia Cup 2024 schedule

July 19: Pakistan v Nepal; India v UAE

July 20: Malaysia v Thailand; Sri Lanka v Bangladesh

July 21: Nepal v UAE; India v Pakistan

July 22: Sri Lanka v Malaysia; Bangladesh v Thailand

July 23: Pakistan v UAE; India v Nepal

July 24: Bangladesh v Malaysia; Sri Lanka v Thailand

July 26: Semi-finals

July 28: Final