The United Arab Emirates began their late bid for a crucial podium finish in CWC League 2 with a nerve-wracking one-wicket win over third-placed Namibia in a low-scoring scrap, the first of two orphan ODIs in Dubai on Thursday (February 23). The Emiratis skittled the visitors for just 91 before making a real meal of the low chase, collapsing to 65/7 before the 17 year-old Aayan Afzal Khan marshalled the tail to drag the hosts over the line with a single wicket to spare.
The Emirati seamers made good use of the early swing on offer after winning the toss and electing to field. Bilal and Junaid Siddique beat the bat regularly before the former took Karl Birkenstock’s off stump in the fourth over. Lohandre Louwrens fell last ball of the powerplay caught off Zahoor Khan at backward point off an outside edge, and captain Gerhard Erasmus soon followed, uncharacteristically reckless as he came down the wicket to Ayan Khan third ball and chipped a leading edge to mid on.
Nicol Loftie Eaton also went without scoring, chopping on a widish ball from Zahoor, who had a third next over as Michael van Lingen clipped him to midwicket, departing for 15 to leave Namibia reeling on 29/5 at drinks. Zane Green attempted to marshal some resistance with the lower order, but Aayan Khan struck twice more to remove Pikky Ya France and Bernhard Scholtz in succession. It was only a late cameo from Ruben Trumpelmann that took Namibia past their lowest ODI total, some defiant hitting at the back end lifting the total to 91 before he holed out off Meiyappan to end the innings, being the last man out for 30.
What looked a straightforward chase on a largely blameless surface proved a struggle for the UAE however. Namibia’s seamers showed discipline in rarely deviating from a fourth stump line and the Emirati top order, vacillating between attack and defence, offered up their wickets in rapid succession. The in-form Waseem went first edging Trumpelmann to slip, Chirag Suri was nicked off by Ben Shikongo on the drive soon after, and Vritya Aravind also went inside the powerplay popping a leading edge to midwicket off Tangeni Lungameni. At 38/3 Namibia were starting to believe as nerves took hold in the home middle order, with Lungameni claiming two more wickets as the collapse continued.
Asif Khan and CP Rizwan both came and went, bringing Aayan Khan to the middle at 53/5. Aayan lost his first partner almost immediately as Trumpelmann pinned Rohan Mustafa LBW, but Meiyappan and then Siddique were able to hand in with him long enough to get the hosts past the 80-mark. The Namibia seamers stuck at their task however, as Shikongo, Trumplemann and Lungameni each took one more to reduce the hosts to their last pair – Zahoor Khan in with Aayan and ten runs needed for victory.
A nail-biting five over phase followed as Ayaan and Zahoor kept out Trumpelmann and Lungameni, who finished with figures of 3-27 and 4-20 respectively as the score crept up to 85/9 after 32 overs. Aayan’s patience was rewarded as Ben Shikongo returned to the attack and opened with an ill-advised bouncer, which Aayan pulled over the square rope for six to tie the scores. Namibia might have salvaged a point next ball but the chance was dropped at midwicket, and Ayaan settled the matter four balls later with a lofted straight drive for four, finishing on 35* having secured two crucial points for his team.
The two sides meet again on Saturday to conclude a two-match series scheduled to make up for matches lost due to Covid earlier in the competition. That game will be Namibia’s last in the competition but the Emiratis have eight more thereafter, hosting Nepal and PNG for a trilateral series next week before meeting the same opposition at Kathmandu in the final series of the League. Currently in fifth place on 13 wins, the UAE now need only three more wins from nine to overtake the USA and secure their ODI status for another cycle, while five wins would see them pass Namibia and claim a certain place at the World Cup Qualifier.