Cricket: Desert duel all set to begin today

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Cricket: Desert duel all set to begin today
Shaiman of the UAE plays a reverse sweep against UAE Development during a warm-up match before the start of the Desert T20 Challenge.

Abu Dhabi - Eight Associate teams, including the UAE, will start their participation in the inaugural Desert T20 Challenge

By Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Fri 13 Jan 2017, 10:04 PM

Last updated: Sat 14 Jan 2017, 12:13 AM

Finally, the time has come for the 'children of lesser God' to grab some sunshine and make a statement to the cricket lords.
Come Saturday, eight Associate teams, including the UAE, will start their participation in the inaugural Desert T20 Challenge.
Afghanistan, Oman, Hong Kong, Ireland, Namibia, the Netherlands and Scotland are the other teams in the fray. Even as the Associate teams do get to play bilateral T20s and unofficial ODIs, a tournament of this stature comes once in a blue moon. So, competitiveness will be guaranteed in the round-robin format matches.
The first encounter will be between Scotland and Hong Kong at the Shaikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. This will be followed by evening action where Afghanistan will face Ireland.
The home team will take to field on Sunday to challenge Namibia. Captain Amjad Javed was hopeful about putting a good show. Apart from reaching the main draw of the 2016 Asia Cup, the UAE had a dismal 2016. It will be interesting few matches to see if interim UAE coach Owais Shah has managed to iron out batting flaws. The UAE are in Pool 'A' with Afghanistan, Ireland and Namibia.
Meanwhile, Oman, the only another Gulf team in the ring, are on experiment mode under coach Duleep Mendis. Their captain Sultan Ahmed, who was sacked after taking the Sultanate to the T20 World Cup, is rightly back at helm of affairs. The trial-and-error method has, however, robbed the tournament of a star attraction - Oman's own 'Malinga' - Munis Ansari. He had a below-par performance during ICC World Cricket League Division Four in Los Angeles despite Oman qualifying to Division Three. Oman share Pool 'B' with the Netherlands, Scotland and Hong Kong.
Both the Gulf teams will be trying to right the wrongs of the past year.
While the Fifa has expanded the World Cup to 48 football teams in its bid to reach places new, the ICC has made this tournament a non-commercial one. Thus, there won't be any live broadcast or online streaming. Though, the entry to the venue is free.
With only the tournament title to aim at, teams will be going all out and an upset is very much on the cards. So, the next few days serve as a great opportunity for the Associate teams to put a dazzling show and grab much-needed ICC eyeballs.

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