UAE eye semifinals after historic win over Sri Lanka

UAE beat Sri Lanka by two wickets in the Under-19 Asia Cup on Monday


Rituraj Borkakoty

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UAE captain Aayan Afzal Khan plays a shot during the match against Sri Lanka in Dubai on Monday. — X
UAE captain Aayan Afzal Khan plays a shot during the match against Sri Lanka in Dubai on Monday. — X

Published: Mon 11 Dec 2023, 10:54 PM

When kids of his age were drawn to toys, all Aayan Afzal Khan wanted was a cricket bat and a ball.

Aayan was four when his mother, Shahista, first saw his obsession with the bat and ball game.

Fourteen years later, Aayan led the UAE under-19 team to a historic win over Sri Lanka, a Test-playing country, in the Under-19 Asia Cup in Dubai.

Chasing 221 for victory at the ICC Academy on Monday, the UAE won a nail-biting battle by two wickets.

Skipper Aayan led from the front with a 50-ball 33 in a tense chase after claiming two wickets with his left-arm spin.

“It feels very good because we have defeated them (Sri Lanka) in a big tournament like the Asia Cup. The team played a very good match,” Aayan told the Khaleej Times from the dressing room after the unforgettable match.

The stirring win has now given UAE a chance of reaching the semifinals in what could be another historic first.

A big win over debutants Japan, which has lost their first two matches to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh by big margins, on Wednesday should be enough for the UAE to reach the last-four stage.

Aayan says reaching the knockout stages was always a target for him and his team.

“We did expect it because we are playing this tournament at home,’ he said.

“So we knew exactly what we needed to do to be able to beat the big teams in the tournament. I know the team and the players. There is talent in this team.”

Aayan, who made history last year in Australia by becoming the youngest player to play in a T20 World Cup, thanked the Emirates Cricket Board for their support.

“The cricket board has backed me a lot in the last few years. I made my senior debut and played the T20 World Cup last year,’ he said.

“Even though I am still very young, I am an experienced player now. I know how to play and hold my nerve during big moments.

“It was a very difficult match today. But not just me, the whole team played a great match. It was a complete team effort.”

Aayan and his UAE team would not have been able to chase down the Sri Lankan total if number three batter Tanish Suri had not played the innings of his life.

Tanish Suri scored a match-winning 75 for the UAE. — Supplied photo
Tanish Suri scored a match-winning 75 for the UAE. — Supplied photo

Having arrived at the crease in the seventh over, Tanish (75 off 88 balls, 4 fours and 3 sixes) overcame early jitters to turn the UAE’s fortunes around.

Mixing caution with aggression, Tanish rose to the challenge and put the UAE in a commanding position.

“Ever since I was a kid, it was always my dream to play for the national team and win matches. I wanted to play for India, but I didn’t know how to go about it. As I kept growing and started getting opportunities in the UAE set-up. Today, it feels amazing to be able to help the team win a match against Sri Lanka,” Tanish told the Khaleej Times.

But the team still needed 75 runs off 106 balls when Tanish became the fifth batsman to fall.

“We were still in a shaky position after I got out. The asking rate was also going high. But captain Aayan and Ammar Badami (17 not out) really played well. They batted with a lot of skills and confidence,” the 18-year-old said.

“It’s a great victory for us. Hopefully, we can play well against Japan and qualify for the semifinals."

Brief scores:

UAE beat Sri Lanka by two wickets.

Sri Lanka 220/9 in 50 overs (Dinura Kalupahana 56, Sineth Jayawardena 49; Aayan Afzal Khan 2/38, Omid Rehman 2/48)

UAE 224/8 in 48.2 overs (Tanish Suri 75, Aayan Afzal Khan 33, Maroof Merchant 20, Ammar Badami 17 not out, Ayman Ahamed 10 not out; Garuka Sanketh 3/35)

Bangladesh beat Japan by nine wickets.

Japan 99 all out (Nihar Parmar 18; Mahfuzur Rahman Rabby 2/9, Ariful Islam 2/15)

Bangladesh 100/1 in 11.2 overs (Ashiqur Rahman Shibli 55 not out, Jishan Alam 29; Charles Hinze 1/30)

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