Pre-tournament favourites Ireland and United Arab Emirates (UAE) reached the finals of the first Global 2022 T20 World Cup Qualifier to secure their places in this year’s T20 World Cup. The journey to Australia was far from smooth sailing however, with both teams tottering on the brink of elimination before timely comebacks rescued them from an embarrassing early exit. With the tournament now done and dusted, here are 6 talking points from Qualifier A.
Ireland gets the job done despite a misfiring Stirling
Pre-tournament, Ireland’s batting had been roundly criticised for being overly reliant on Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie. Furthermore, with Kevin O’Brien’s omission from the team there were real concerns about how the inexperienced middle order would cope. The opening loss against UAE only served to heighten those fears; and while they haven’t been entirely laid to rest, the middle order showed enough mettle to point towards an encouraging future.
For Ireland, nobody had a standout tournament with the bat. Both Stirling and Balbirnie were well below par, but useful and timely contributions from Harry Tector and Gareth Delany kept the team afloat. Going forward, Ireland will hope for more consistent returns from the former duo alongside Curtis Campher and Lorcan Tucker, to build a solid platform from which to launch in the death overs.
On the other hand, the bowling unit largely operated as a cohesive unit. Seamers Craig Young and Josh Little were excellent; leading the way with 8 wickets at 13.37 and 7 wickets at 16.71 respectively. In the all-rounder stakes, Andy McBrine upstaged Simi Singh easily. The Donemana leg spinner regularly put a brake on scoring in the middle overs, whilst also contributing a vital 36 runs with the bat in Ireland’s semi-final victory against Oman. McBrine finished the tournament with 6 wickets at an economy rate of 5.57 and 51 runs at 25.5.
Are we entering a golden age of UAE Cricket?
97* (67), 40 (29), 84* (52), 46 (23) and 0 (2)
These are the scores that UAE’s youngest squad member, 19-year-old wicket-keeper/batter Vriitya Aravind posted in the tournament. Drafted into the national team in December 2019, Aravind carried UAE’s batting on his young shoulders with some sensational displays of stroke making and power hitting. Without his contributions, UAE would have failed to qualify for this year’s T20 World Cup.
He played match-winning innings against Ireland and Nepal, while his 84 not out against Bahrain ensured that UAE got over the 158 runs required to seal qualification on net run rate, despite the shock loss. Aravind’s success story is a testament to the strength of UAE’s youth pathway system which has also produced other home-grown youngsters like 21-year-old leg spinner Karthik Meiyappan and 19-year-old Alishan Sharafu.
And there are more talented young cricketers coming up through the ranks. UAE’s U-19 team performed brilliantly at the recently concluded World Cup in the Caribbean, defeating full members West Indies and Ireland en route to a Plate Final victory and 9th placed finish. Watch out for the likes of Dhruv Parashar and Jash Giyanani to make the transition to the senior squad in a couple of years’ time. The future shines bright for UAE cricket!
The surprise packages of the tournament – Bahrain!
Undoubtedly the surprise packages of the tournament, 34th ranked Bahrain came agonizingly close to ousting pre-tournament favourites UAE from the qualifier. Needing to defend 12 in the last over to nab a semi-final berth on NRR, Shahid Mahmood lost his lengths completely and was pummeled for 24 runs. Nevertheless, the Bahrainis depart their debut appearance at a global qualifier with heads held high. They were highly competitive in all their fixtures and their upset two run victory over UAE, an opponent ranked 22 places higher, was an Associate cricket upset for the ages.
Before the qualifier, Bahrain’s cricket scene had been shrouded in mystery with lots of unknowns. But the streamed fixtures revealed the presence of some genuine talent in their squad. With his ultra-slow, loopy leg spinners Junaid Aziz made life difficult for batters and finished as the second highest wicket taker. Also, all-rounder Sarfaraz Ali and ex-Karnataka batter David Mathias put in a number of impressive performances. If the Bahrainis can maintain their consistency, they will be serious contenders in the Asian region and with more Associate slots available at future T20 World Cups, stand better placed to qualify for the main event.
Meanwhile other debutants such as Germany and Philippines had a tough time at the tournament, but will hopefully learn some valuable lessons from the experience. Canada also struggled with many of their star players missing but put in a match winning effort against Bahrain in a playoff game to ultimately finish 5th in the overall tournament standings. Western Australia born opening batter Matthew Spoors impressed compiling a century and half-century in his international debut tournament for Canada.