UAE stun Ireland in first match of ODI series
Batting first, Ireland made 269 for five in 50 overs. In reply, the home team reached home, losing four wickets in 49 overs
They had a lot stacked against them. Up against Ireland, the newest nation in the Test-playing fold, two key players testing Covid positive just before the start of the four-match one-day international series, and a captain, still in grief following the passing of his father.
It all could have gone so wrong, it all could just have gone into a freefall, it could have been a familiar story. But not quite, on Friday.
The UAE showed grit and gumption against all the odds to script a fairytale against the Irish in Abu Dhabi.
Indeed, it was the stuff of fairytales, stuff to give one goosebumps, as the UAE brought down an Ireland side, who not so long ago had hunted down the mighty England, the World Cup champions and world No.1.
The UAE’s six-wicket win at the Zayed Cricket Stadium was built on maiden centuries from Chundangapoyil Rizwan and Muhammad Usman, as well as a vital spell by off-spinner Rohan Mustafa. And it was a great team effort and suffice to say, it had all the hallmarks of coach Robin Singh, who is plotting a new direction for UAE cricket.
It was a historic and most famous win for the UAE as it was only their second victory against a Test-playing nation following their win over Zimbabwe in 2018. It was also their first victory against the Irish in seven attempts.
It was a contest that ebbed and flowed right through till the end. Paul Stirling did what he does best and the burly opener, who had earned a reprieve when on 32 after debutant Kashif Daud dropped a tough chance off leg spinner Karthik Meiyappan, went on to score an unbeaten century.
The 30-year-old carried his bat for a sparkling 131 from 148 deliveries with nine boundaries and four sixes. Ireland were staring at a total of 300 but Mustafa put the brakes on with two wickets to keep them down to 269-5. The former UAE skipper had figures of 8-1-21-2 at one point and finished up with 10-1-43-2.
The UAE were skating on thin ice at 51 for three but Rizwan and Usman joined forces and put them back on track. The pair knuckled down and gave the ideal riposte with a 184-run alliance for the fourth wicket, a record partnership for the UAE in ODIs.
What looked like a tough chase, Rizwan and Usman made it look a fairly easy one as they strode towards their hundreds.
Although Rizwan wasn’t there to see the side through to the end, falling after making a stoic 109, Usman and Waheed Ahmed shepherded them home with an over to spare.
Usman’s unbeaten 102 came from 107 balls and had seven fours and three sixes. And it was to be the third highest run chase ever in an ODI on this ground. “It is the icing on the cake that my maiden hundred went on to pave the victory for the UAE. I’m so happy for that,” said Rizwan, who was adjudged the Man of the Match.
“Robin sir was instilling belief in us that we can beat them. Have belief in that. If you play 50 overs, you can still beat them. And that’s what we did today,” he added. And Rizwan couldn’t thank his wife enough for helping him during the Covid enforced break.
“That’s true actually,” Rizwan laughed and said, when asked if it is true that his wife had given him throwdowns at home.“We had nowhere to go during that time and my wife used to give throwdowns for me. And it turned out to be fruitful,” he added.
Ireland: 269-5 in 50 overs (Paul Stirling 131 not out, Andy Balbirnie 53, Curtis Campher 24, Gareth Delany 21 not out, Rohan Mustafa 2-43) lost to UAE: 270-4 in 49 overs (C Rizwan 109, Muhammad Usman 102 not out, Curtis Campher 2-31, Barry McCarthy 2-60) by 6 wickets.
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