UAE won the toss, electing to bowl, citing familiarity with the playing surface. Gary Wilson appeared unfazed, declaring that Ireland had planned to put a score on the board first regardless. The slow nature of the pitch became obvious within the first over, taken by Sultan Ahmed, bowling in partnership with fellow slow left arm orthodox, captain Ahmed Raza.
Where an average power play featuring Paul Stirling and Kevin O’Brien would usually be boundary laden, tiring out scoreboard operators, today’s offering was a definite product of the slow pitch which Kevin O’Brien did not get a read on, falling in the 4th over, bowled by Siddique and caught by Ashfar Ahmed, diving to his right to take a catch at midwicket.
Where the hallmark of the Stirling-O’Brien partnership is runs in the powerplay, today Ireland found themselves on the backfoot early. Soon after, Andy Balbirnie became the second batsman to fail to make a mark, escaping a near-miss inside edge only to be caught off Ahmed Raza’s bowling by a leaping Roham Mustafa at extra cover. With Balbirnie registering 11 runs, Ireland found themselves on 49-2 thanks to Paul Stirling’s strike rotation and odd boundary. With Ireland looking for runs ambling towards the halfway mark with a meagre 54-2, Ireland’s captain in the grooming, Harry Tector, looked to kick on but ended up yorking himself, being dismissed by Rohan Mustafa for 2. Requiring some stability and runs, skipper Gary Wilson’s stint at the crease lasted just 2 overs; looking to slog sweep, Wilson gifted deep midwicket the ball, giving Mustafa a second wicket.
Coming in with his team on 68-4, Mark Adair finally gave Stirling someone at the other end – putting on a partnership of 52 runs through strike rotation and boundaries (5 4s for Stirlo and 1 for Adair), during which time Paul Stirling reached his 7th 50 in 2019. Finally running out of steam, Stirling was run out going for the second off a sharp throw from Rohan Mustafa in the 19th over. Gareth Delaney, for all the excitement around his batting and the way Ireland would utilise him, had a 2 run cameo, dragging on a ball from Zahoor Khan. With one over to go, having made just 122 runs, Rohan Mustafa came on to bowl the final over. Looking to maximize the total, Adair came down to Rohan, missing the ball and finding himself bowled for 13 runs, failing to indicate his impact and importance to the Irish batting in the match. The remainder of the over gave indication that today was to be The Rohan Mustafa show – giving away just three singles, he dispatched the lower order with an lbw and effected 2 run outs.
With Mustafa finishing with figures of 4/18 with the ball, UAE contained a big-hitting Irish side who failed to find their footing on a slow-playing pitch, save for the Emirates-experienced Paul Stirling who made 72(54), much to the delight of the local school kiddos. Meanwhile, UAE managed to read the conditions, playing with a clear, consistent plan, only introducing pace in the 13th over. Recently reinstated captain Ahmed Raza led his side well, looking relaxed on the field, continually encouraging his bowlers and fielders and leading the squeeze with the ball with personal figures of 1-17.
With the adrenaline visible on his face after bowling a career best, Rohan Mustafa came out to bat. He began an immediate onslaught, promoted back up the order after batting at 4 in UAE’s less-than-ideal opening match. With four boundaries in the 1st over, Mustafa hit 2 down the ground, one over mid-on, and swept another past backward square leg, just to ensure that anyone who had missed the first innings was quite clear that it was Mustafa’s day. After a second over where Mustafa dispatched 3 fours, Mark Adair made the breakthrough in the third over to dismiss Mustafa’s opening partner Asfaq for 3. With D’Silva coming to the crease with UAE on 32-1, the pair managed to rotate against all the bowlers, save Mark Adair, who mixed up pace to keep the batsmen on their toes. After a partnership of 29, Mustafa moved to give himself room to hoik David Delaney, getting beaten for pace to find himself bowled. Having scored a rapid 39 off 16 balls, Mustafa propelled UAE to the start required to put them in the driving seat with 61-2 in just 7.2 overs. Mohammad Usman picked up where Mustafa left off, hitting 5 4s, particularly taking advantage of David Delaney’s pace and inexperience. Boyd Rankin finally dismissed him with a feather on a delivery moving away from the batsman, taken by Gary Wilson behind the stumps. Usman made 29 off 21, taking his side to 97-3 at the conclusion of the 12th over.
With a mere 29 needed off 42 balls, Ireland kept the bowling tight with David Delaney finding some rhythm and dismissing Shahzad through a run out aided by a sharp return from Harry Tector. A comedy run-out between Waheed Ahmad and D’Silva saw Dockrell and Getkate end D’Silva’s anchor innings of 29 off 41 balls, leaving Waheed and Mohammad Boota to see home the remaining 10 runs required for the win. Ireland kept their bowling tight, and didn’t bowl away the game, but with a low total to defend and Mustafa’s early innings onslaught, the game was taken out of their hands early on.
Paul Stirling, with a well-judged, intelligently paced 72(58). Mark Adair, adapting his bowling for the conditions to take 1-21 from 4 overs, as well as playing vital support in a 52 run partnership with Stirling.
Rohan Mustafa, who was MVP with the bat, ball and in the field for UAE. Taking a T20i career best of 4-18 from 4 overs, he also made a rapid 39(16). Mohammad Usman also scored a vital 29(21).
With a win apiece, Ireland will next face Oman, while the UAE will take on Hong Kong, both playing on Monday.