Dougie Brown 'gutted' as UAE are forced to watch Asia Cup from the sidelines
When the great and good of continental cricket decamp to Dubai and Abu Dhabi this month, the host country’s leading cricketers will be ghosts at the feast.
They should be preparing to face cricketing royalty like Rohit Sharma, Mohammed Amir and Sarfraz Ahmed. Instead, they will be conspicuous by their absence.
It is not clear as yet as to what the daily schedule will look like for the professional players of the UAE for the next few weeks. Normally, they might be expected at nets at their base in Dubai Sports City.
They might want to give that a wide swerve between now and September 28, though. Too many reminders of what they could have won.
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Action from the main event will be on the widescreen TVs on the walls in the ICC Academy. The competing players of the Asia Cup will be filing in and out. Most painfully, those in the red of Hong Kong, the side who took the final qualifying place on offer for the competition.
The UAE had the ultimate prize wrenched from their grasp after an inspired Hong Kong - and the weather - conspired to deny them a place at their home Asia Cup.
They lost out in an exhilarating final of the qualifying competition in Kuala Lumpur as Hong Kong’s No 8 and No 10 batsmen hustled through for a bye to win with two wickets and three balls left. For UAE, the dream was over.
“Not playing Asia Cup [is sad] because it was a big opportunity for everyone to show their class,” Rohan Mustafa, the UAE captain, said. “Well done to Hong Kong, they played really good cricket after losing to Malaysia in the first match.
“Our boys did a very good job, but with the weather, the situation, you need luck as well. That was not with us today.”
Dougie Brown, the UAE coach, was disconsolate. “Gutted doesn’t even come close to describing the feeling right now,” Brown said.
“I think the guys deserve a hell of a lot of credit for the way they fought. We didn’t get everything right. We maybe didn’t bowl as well as we can do. We maybe didn’t field quite as well as we know we can.
“But to get into the position we did, to get into the position where we had the total to defend we ended up with, was a phenomenal effort. Credit to Hong Kong, they won some critical moments in a game of very fine margins.”
For those with long memories in UAE cricket, it might have felt like the curse of Kinrara Oval had struck.
Back in 2008, Hong Kong had beaten the UAE in the final of the ACC Trophy – a previous incarnation of the Asia Cup Qualifier – in very similar circumstances at the same ground. Then, as now, a heavy deluge of rain had altered the course of the encounter.
On this occasion, the UAE were 65-3 when the rain arrived after 15.2 overs, with Aizaz Khan already on his way to a five-wicket haul.
After a long halt in play, the national team returned and, admirably, made 111 in eight overs to give themselves something to defend in what was now a 24-over game. Ashfaq Ahmed led the onslaught, with an innings of 79 that straddled the break.
“The UAE batsmen batted tremendously well after the rain delay,” Anshuman Rath, the Hong Kong captain said. “To get that many runs in 10 overs is no joke on any ground. The momentum was with them, but we knew it was a good wicket.”
Hong Kong required a revised target of 179. Despite losing four wickets for 18 runs in a hurry in the middle of their chase, notably those of Rath and Babar Hayat – who were each centurions when the sides met earlier in the week - they made their way through to the win. Next up for them, Pakistan in Dubai on September 16.
“Games like that can go either way, so credit to UAE for playing such an awesome game,” Rath said. “We knew we had the batting firepower to chase it down, and luckily that happened.”