UAE set up historic semifinal clash with Pakistan in U19 Asia Cup

UAE became the only second associate country to reach the semifinals of this tournament


Rituraj Borkakoty

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UAE captain Aayan Afzal Khan (second right) and teammates celebrate a wicket against Japan. — X
UAE captain Aayan Afzal Khan (second right) and teammates celebrate a wicket against Japan. — X

Published: Wed 13 Dec 2023, 8:45 PM

Last updated: Thu 14 Dec 2023, 8:07 AM

When the historic moment arrived finally, there were no wild celebrations from the UAE players. They were always in control in their final Group B game, recording a big win over Japan on Wednesday to reach their first-ever semifinals at the Under-19 Asia Cup.

The 107-run victory, just two days after their stunning win over Test-playing team Sri Lanka, earned them a semifinal clash against Asian giants Pakistan.

Having scored 320 for seven after winning the toss, the home team restricted Japan to 213 for four in 50 overs at the ICC Academy in Dubai.

This was a huge improvement for Japan who had been bowled out for 99 and 75 in their previous two games against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Their captain Koji Abe (69 not out off 68 balls, 5 fours and 2 sixes), whose father is a New Zealander, would be immensely proud of his half-century.

Charles Hinze (40 off 36 balls) and Kiefer Lake (31 not out off 27 balls) also gave glimpses into Japan’s newfound ability to play cricket.

But Wednesday was all about UAE’s own progress at the associate level.

They became the only second associate country to reach the semifinals of this tournament.

Afghanistan were the first in 2012, five years before they earned the Test status.

All-round contribution

Skipper Aayan Afzal Khan (67 off 41 balls, 6 fours, 3 sixes and 1/40) was the star of the show again with a brilliant all-round performance.

Aayan was well-supported by Dhruv Parashar (65 off 68 balls, and 1/17), Maroof Merchant (60 off 61 balls) and Tanish Suri (43 off 54 balls).

Having started their campaign with a 61-run defeat to Bangladesh, the UAE have fought back brilliantly to reach the knockout rounds.

“It’s great, it’s the first time we have reached the semifinal, it’s the first time, we have beaten Sri Lanka. We have come close on many occasions, but this time the mindset was different. It was more about getting over the line,” assistant coach Ahmed Raza told the Khaleej Times.

“The first game against Bangladesh, we could have. The hurt was real from the support staff and the players. But the way they played against Sri Lanka, it shows the character of the team.”

Dhruv, who took six wickets in the first match against Bangladesh, was delighted to have contributed to UAE’s win on Wednesday.

“I am very happy, I have been able to contribute to the team. We have a great squad of 15 players. Everyone is a match-winner. I am getting the chance to win matches for the country and I don’t think there is a better feeling than that,” he told the Khaleej Times.

“Whether it was with the bat, ball or in the field, I have contributed in all three departments of the game. I am very glad that my knock today came in a winning cause.”

The 18-year-old batting all-rounder then thanked the coaching staff for their constant support.

“Head coach Mudassar Nazar Sir and Ahmed Sir always back us. Even others in the support staff always back us. We did the hard part in the last game, by beating the Test-playing nation Sri Lanka. It gave us high chances of reaching the semifinals,’ he said.

“Today we just had to come out again and do what we do and win the game and beat Japan. There was no way we were going to take them lightly because we needed to win by a big margin, the net run rate could have come into play.

“But we got more than 300 runs on the board, they did put up a fight, but we still won by more than 100 runs.

“I think winning the last two games gives us a lot of momentum for the big game against Pakistan.”

The two semifinals will be played on Friday.

Bangladesh, which beat Sri Lanka by six wickets on Wednesday, will face India in the other semifinal.

The final is scheduled for Sunday.

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