Rain or shine, UAE girls look to make T20 World Cup history

The UAE face a tricky challenge on Friday in what could be a rain-interrupted qualifying game against Vanuatu


Rituraj Borkakoty

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The UAE players celebrate a wicket during their stunning win over the Netherlands in Abu Dhabi. — X
The UAE players celebrate a wicket during their stunning win over the Netherlands in Abu Dhabi. — X

Published: Thu 2 May 2024, 10:02 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 May 2024, 10:54 PM

Among the myriad obstacles that unstable weather conditions threw at the UAE following the unprecedented rains on April 16, perhaps the most under-reported was the one faced by the country’s women’s cricket team.

A team made up of cricketers from expat communities, the UAE have made considerable progress in the recent years.

Reaching the global qualifiers for the 2024 Women’s T20 World Cup was an achievement of epic proportions for an associate nation which lacked a proper system for women’s cricket until 2010.

It was against this backdrop that the UAE women had earned the right to play in the final World Cup qualifying tournament (April 24-May 7) in Abu Dhabi.

But their preparations for the 10-team tournament were hit hard by the rain on April 16 as the 2024 United Arab Emirates Women's Quadrangular Series (April 16-19), a warm-up event featuring the home team, the Netherlands, Scotland and the US, was called off.

In a tournament from which only the top two teams will qualify for the T20 Women’s World Cup, the UAE got off to an inauspicious start, losing their opening two matches tamely to Ireland and Zimbabwe.

But they bounced back in style, beating the higher-ranked Netherlands, a highly experienced team in women’s cricket, by 10 wickets on April 29 to keep their World Cup dream alive.

Samaira Dharnidharka, a 17-year-old medium pacer, returned with impressive figures of 4-0-11-3 as the UAE restricted the Netherlands to 101 for nine in 20 overs.

Skipper Esha Oza (66 not out off 39 balls) and her opening partner Theertha Satish (36 not out 3 balls) then put the Dutch bowlers to the sword as the UAE raced to victory with 47 balls to spare.

Buoyed by the shock win, the UAE girls are now hungry for more as they take on Vanuatu on Friday to consolidate their position in the race for two semifinal slots in Group B.

“I think the key to our performance (against the Netherlands) on that day was just how everybody wanted to get out on the field and wanted to prove that ‘no, we here to fight and we have the self-belief that we can make it to the World Cup’,” skipper Esha told the Khaleej Times on Thursday.

“And we proved it that day that we are here to qualify for the World Cup, not just for participating in this tournament.”

UAE captain Esha Oza after her match-winning knock against the Dutch team
UAE captain Esha Oza after her match-winning knock against the Dutch team

But their preparations for the next game against Vanuatu were affected by rain on Thursday.

The forecast for Friday is not perfect either as light to moderate rainfall is expected, making it a tricky challenge for the home team against Vanuatu in what could be a rain-interrupted game.

“The weather has not been great. But everyone (in the team) is in the mindset that the match is going to happen as it is supposed to be,” Esha said.

“The weather is something which is not in our hands, so we are not going to think about the uncontrollable, so we will just focus on what we can control.

“We are just waiting for tomorrow’s game to happen because it’s a very important game for us. As I said, the main aim is to qualify for the semifinals for now. We will take it one game at a time. That game against the Netherlands gave us good confidence.”

Esha, one of the fastest batters to reach 1000 runs in T20 internationals, says the team is capable of producing good results against higher-ranked opponents.

“It was a great team performance to get a good win against the Netherlands side. They play the higher-ranked teams a lot more than us. So to get a win against them was great,” she said.

“But we are looking to beat much more higher-ranked teams, so this is just the beginning.”


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