The T20 series against Bangladesh, a Test-playing team, gave the UAE an ideal platform to gauge their level less than a month before the start of their ICC T20 World Cup campaign in Australia.
The home team ended the T20 series on Tuesday with a 32-run defeat at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, 48 hours after their narrow seven-run loss on the same ground.
While their bowlers, especially the spinners, showed plenty of skills and spirit to restrict Bangladesh to 169 for five in 20 overs despite the Tigers getting off to a great start, the UAE batting line-up suffered a nightmarish collapse at the start of their chase.
Unlike the first game when the UAE remained in the hunt until the final over chasing 159, the second game was killed as a contest by the Bangla Tigers in the seventh over when they reduced the hosts to 29 for four.
Against an experienced Bangladesh attack featuring Mohammad Saifuddin, Taskin Ahmed, Nasum Ahmed, Mosaddek Hossain and Mehidy Hasan Miraz, the UAE top order fumbled due to a combination of poor shot selection and some crafty bowling.
In the end, it was skipper CP Rizwan (51 not out off 36 balls, 2 fours, 2 sixes) and all-rounder Basil Hameed (42 off 40 balls, 4 fours) who had to dig deep into their reserves as they gave a semblance of respectability to the team’s total with a 90-run partnership for the fifth wicket.
The UAE eventually ended up with a score of 137 for five in 20 overs, a reasonably good total after the horrendous start.
But for them to make a serious challenge in the first round of the World Cup next month against their Group A rivals Sri Lanka, Namibia and the Netherlands, the UAE batsmen need to raise their level at the top order.
Their bowlers, though, came away from the Bangladesh series with their heads held high, managing to stop the visitors from posting a big score in the second successive game.
The Bangla Tiger got off to a fine start with opener Mehidy Hasan Miraz (46, 37 balls, 5 fours) showing superb touch on Tuesday.
Backed by the passionate cheers from three thousand fans in the stands, Bangladesh reached 83 for two in 10 overs, looking good for a big score on a good batting wicket.
But the UAE kept fighting back, thanks to their two young spinners, Aryan Lakra (3-0-14-1), who shared the new ball with left-arm pacer Sabir Ali, and Aayan Afzal Khan (4-0-33-2).
The two left-arm spinners showed good control and they were not afraid to attack the batsmen.
Karthik Meiyappan (4-0-29-1), the 21-year-old leg-spinner who had bowled to Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in the RCB nets at the 2020 IPL, was also excellent in the middle overs as the Bangla middle-order batsmen Liton Das (25), Afif Hossain (18) and Mosaddek Hossain (27) failed to covert their starts.
In the end, a brilliant 32-run partnership off 18 balls between Yasir Ali (21 not out off 13 balls) and captain Nurul Hasan (19 not out off 10 balls) took Bangladesh to a competitive total, which eventually proved too strong for the home team.
The UAE team will now fly to Australia on September 29. Rizwan’s men will get two official practice matches against the West Indies and Scotland before they begin their World Cup campaign against the Netherlands on October 16.
Only the top two teams from each group in the first round will reach the Super 12.
For a team that outplayed Ireland in the qualifying tournament in January, the UAE will fancy their chances against the Netherlands and Namibia in Group A.
But they can ill afford to have batting failures at the top order.
Bangladesh 169 for five in 20 overs (Mehidy Hasan Miraz 46, Mosaddek Hossain 27, Liton Das 25; Aayan Afzal Khan 2/33, Aryan Lakra 1/14, Karthik Meiyappan 1/29)
UAE 137 for five in 20 overs (CP Rizwan 51 not out, Basil Hameed 42, Muhammad Waseem 18; Mosaddek Hossain 2/8, Taskin Ahmed 1/22, Ebadot Hossain 1/24).
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