More turmoil within the UAE camp, with wicketkeeper Ghulam Shabber going AWOL before reappearing in Pakistan, was put to one side as the embattled hosts cruised to victory over Nigeria, despite their most convincing batting performance of the tournament so far.
With a successful call at the toss, Ahmed Raza inserted Nigeria to bat – no doubt hoping for a NRR-boosting victory as the logjam on the group B ladder intensified. And while the Emiratis did eventually run out comfortable winners, the Nigerian batsmen produced a much-improved performance as they frustrated the UAE bowlers on their way to 111/3. The disciplined effort was headlined by Sesan Adedeji, who finished on 51* as he became the first Nigerian batsman to pass 50 in a T20I. Accompanying him for an unbroken partnership of 89 (Nigeria’s highest in T20Is) was Chimeze Onwuzulike (46*).
A stifling opening spell from Sultan Ahmed (4-2-6-0) saw the Africans restricted to just 18 off the power play, and with Junaid Siddique and Ahmed Raza also applying the squeeze (ending with identical figures of 4-1-15-1), Nigeria looked at risk of being bundled out in a similar fashion to their loss against Oman. But Adedeji and Onwuzulike dug in, showing off their defensive techniques before gradually opening up as the innings approached the end – Imran Haider’s solitary over went for 16 as Adedeji thumped a pair of 4s and a 6, while Waheed Ahmed was taken for maximums by both batsmen as they lifted the run rate with a late flurry. Even the usually miserly Rohan Mustafa conceded a big hit as Onwuzulike grew in confidence and biffed him over the fence.
In response the UAE batsmen wasted no time getting underway, with Zawar Farid helping himself to 6 after a couple of sighters off Akuchukwu. Farid continued in much the same vein, humming along to a Man-of-the-Match 55 off 35 (including a pair of consecutive sixes off Daniel Gim to bring up his half-century) before Gim got his revenge next delivery as the opener holed out to Abiodun Abioye. This was the extent of the medium-pacer’s involvement, as an ICC crackdown had earlier in the day suspended him and two other bowlers (Scotland’s Tom Sole and Singapore’s Selladore Vinaykumar) for suspect actions. It was an odd decision by the Nigerians to include him in the XI if he couldn’t bowl, since he is a genuine number 11 batsman, even in a team that is still learning its craft.
Regardless, Nigerian skipper Ademola Onikoyi rotated his bowlers effectively, and they turned in a creditable performance – taking 5 wickets between them as UAE swung for the hills in their dash to the finish line. Offspinner Sylvester Okpe was the most successful, winkling out Chirag Suri and Mohammad Booti on the way to 2/22 off 3 enthusiastic overs. He was, however unable to complete his quota as Mohammad Usman finished the match in emphatic fashion during the next over (the 13th) as he carved Runsewe for 4 and 6. The speedy finish keeps UAE in contention for a top-four finish in the congested Group B ladder, though with their only match in hand an in-form Canada, they may be relying on other results to swing their way.