Papua New Guinea looked set to reiterate its prowess on the World Cricket League Championship table but an inspired United Arab Emirates halted its momentum at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Friday (March 31) with an 82-run win.
Coming into this game with six successive wins, Assad Vala’s men, second on the table despite the loss, would have banked on reputation to put away UAE after winning the toss and electing to field.
However, the ploy backfired as UAE put on a daunting 292 for 5 from 50 overs on the back of three half-centuries, with Rameez Shahzad’s fiery 87 the top score. In response, PNG’s top order looked in good stead at the start of the run chase, but a wobble in the middle was followed by a late collapse, and the team was bowled out for 210 in 47.3 overs.
UAE’s bowling performance was led by Imran Haider (4 for 49), and the leg-spinner was complemented by Ahmed Raza (3 for 30).
This was UAE’s second win in nine games, pushing it seventh in the eight-team table, ahead of Namibia.
While the loss didn’t affect PNG’s position on the table, it could certainly prompt the team to reconsider plans going forward.
PNG’s bowling, which has been clinical if not game-changing throughout the tournament, was off-colour on the day and UAE’s men capitalised. The run glut was led at the top by Rohan Mustafa, the skipper. His quick fire 39 was followed by Ghulam Shabber’s 96-ball 50 and Shahzad’s 82-ball 87, but the most crucial contribution in the innings came from No. 6 Muhammad Usman.
Usman smashed 58 off just 38, first sharing in a brilliant 91-run stand with Shahzad for the fifth wicket, and then combining with Mohammad Naveed (34 off 15) to put on an unbroken 52 runs in the last four overs.
For PNG, Chad Soper and Alei Nao picked up two wickets a piece.
In the chase, PNG’s opening pair of Tony Ura (61) and Vani Morea (32) added a healthy 82 runs at the top. But the first wobble came when the team went from 82 without loss in 21 overs to 111 for 4 in 27.2 overs. With the asking rate mounting, UAE’s bowlers kept the pressure on and though PNG went from 204 for 5 to 210 all out in just 16 balls, the target had already become too steep by then.