Familiar batting woes derail UAE’s campaign at the World Cup Qualifier

The Emiratis finish dead last in Group B, having failed to win a single match

UAE's Rohan Mustafa dismissed by Scottish allrounder Brandon McMullen (Photo: ICC)
UAE's Rohan Mustafa dismissed by Scottish allrounder Brandon McMullen (Photo: ICC)

It’s been a highly disappointing campaign for UAE at the World Cup Qualifier despite a pre-tournament mini revival hinting at better outcomes.

As previously stated in our UAE team preview, the Emiratis have been a cricketing enigma over the last couple of years, with inconsistent on-field results and plenty of off-field drama. However, a timely improvement in batting performances led by the trio of captain Muhammad Waseem, Vriitya Aravind and Asif Khan, helped the team avoid the ignominy of losing their ODI status at the pre-qualifier playoffs.

And with more good performances at the ACC Premier Men’s Cup to follow, one wouldn’t have blamed the squad and coach for harbouring Super Six ambitions. However, what transpired instead was a familiar return to batting struggles which ultimately contributed to the team’s inability to win a single game at the group stage.

Stats tell the story

Collectively, the batters amassed a sum total of 789 runs in four group games, which was the 2nd lowest aggregate of all teams, only narrowly eclipsing USA’s run tally of 780. Despite the flat pitches and favourable batting conditions on offer, UAE only crossed 200 twice and that too barely, when they made 227 and 211 against Oman and Ireland respectively.

The above table summarises the Emiratis batting woes in detail. On almost every occasion, promising starts were squandered by middle order batting collapses which prevented the team from carrying any sort of momentum into the final overs. Scores of 124/9, 120/5, 121/7 and 143/9 during Powerplay 2 (10 to 40 overs) show a batting unit in crisis. What’s worse is that on three separate occasions against Sri Lanka, Scotland and Ireland, UAE didn’t even make it to the 40 over mark before getting bowled out.

No one came close to making a century. In fact, there was only one 50+ individual score; Ayaan Afzal Khan being the sole half-centurion with his spirited 58 not out against Oman. Aravind and Asif had dreadful tournaments with poor strike rates and batting averages of 24.5 and 17.3 respectively. While captain Waseem fared a little better, he failed to convert any of his brisk starts to a substantial score. He still finished as the highest run getter for UAE with 128 runs at 32 and a strike rate of 87.

Bowling

The bowling also didn’t fare that well with spinners Karthik Meiyappan, Aayan Afzal Khan and Rohan Mustafa failing to find much purchase on Bulawayo’s flat batting decks. The lack of penetration was evident as the three spinners collectively only picked up six wickets from 77 overs of bowling.

On the pace bowling front, the experienced Junaid Siddique was UAE’s most effective bowler, racking up a total of five wickets at 28.20 and an economy rate of 5.03. Unfortunately, his partner Zahoor Khan was wayward and expensive. Of the newcomers, 19-year-old Ali Naseer displayed loads of potential with both bat and ball and should become a mainstay of UAE’s starting XI going forward.

Overall, UAE’s struggles are well encapsulated by the fact that not a single player made the top 10 batting or bowling charts at the conclusion of the group stage.

Future Lessons

It’s hard to see any positives that UAE can take forward from this tournament, apart from the emergence of Ali Naseer and Ayaan Afzal Khan’s solitary half century. Their batting remains a massive concern and they will struggle to win many games without scoring 250+ consistently in ODI’s. Also, the bowling unit needs to find a way to secure breakthroughs on unhelpful surfaces.

On the more positive note, the inclusion of multiple academy graduates and Under-19 cricketers in the wider squad reflects UAE’s good pathway system and their desire to blood youngsters early. Hopefully, these youthful prospects can continue to develop on the international stage. Also, with the ODI World Cup reverting back to a 14-team event from 2027 and the expansion of the T20 World Cup to 20 teams from 2024, the Emiratis will receive many more chances to make ICC world events in future years. These are opportunities that they need to grasp with both hands!

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