UAE v NAM – 2022 Men’s T20 World Cup

on the surface, Mohammed Waseem is the kind of cricketer you would like to be.

By 10:10 PM Australian Eastern Daylight Time, Waseem had thrown just 22 balls in official Twenty20 cricket. He had three wickets in those 22 balls, making for an impressive strike rate of 7.33. Two of these three wickets were Namibians – one of them David Wiese – but still. Its main role on the side is to open with the bat.

Sometime between 10.10pm and 10.15pm Waseem came bowling in a match that appeared to be the UAE in the bag but was now evenly balanced. Momentum was with Namibia, with Wiese refusing to play this as his last game in this tournament. And who knew if he would ever play one again?

Waseem made an extremely short run-up that made the keeper—who stood as far back as he did for other quicks—look optimistic or unconscious. Waseem tiptoed for a moment, then from four paces he let the ball rip. First ball almost a Yorker. Second ball defeated Ruben Trumplemann and was carried comfortably to the keeper. He was like the old pro around who could just show up and do anything. As an opening bat, he had scored half a century earlier in the day.

This was over the 17th. Seventy-three out of 36 had turned 46 out of 24. The last had passed before 18. Even Trumplemann was now starting to strike. And here was Waseem, barely a bowler, nailing his four-step lengths on a decent lick.

UAE are a nice mix. Their cricket is no longer just the first generation of rifles for hire. Many of their cricketers are homegrown. Their background is diverse. Their captain is a Malayalee, their youngest player of Goan descent, their hat-trick hero is Tamil, their fast bowlers have roots in Pakistan. The team language is Hindi/Urdu, but Waseem speaks a little Malayalam, the captain’s native language. Unlike their former countries, they have no problem playing with each other. They are not insecure. They are loud, expressive and do not shy away from each other on the field. They are also a team aiming for just their second win in all World Cups, after their win over the Netherlands in 1996. So even though this was a dead rubber for them in terms of tournament play, there was a big point to prove. To others and to themselves. The world just below the Full Member sides is a killer.

When they came to the ground, the Malayalee captain said, CP Rizwansaw the field and, in consultation with Trinidadian/Indian coach, Robin Singh, decided they would play an extra spinner, and told Waseem he might have to bowl once or twice.

Now domestic T20 cricket in UAE does not qualify as official T20 cricket. So it’s easy to miss Waseem bowling a little in T20s. Not just bowling, he bowls to the death. He makes sure he does because he is the captain of his club side. Recently in D10 cricket he defended eight runs in the final over. Sometimes he bowls 14, 16, 18, 20. And he plays, as he says, every second-third day.

In the UAE team, bowling is “very good” in his words, so he doesn’t have to bowl. Now that he was bowling, he had to do it with the ultimate pro, Wiese, who knew the UAE would need two overs somewhere and was quite excited at the idea of ​​playing spin. He can jump any mistake in length. Waseem missed his on the fifth and was clubbed. This was, to speak of the punch line of the ICC, grand.

With the sixth ball, Wiese may have succumbed to the temptation of the short square boundaries and turned the bat around. Waseem settled under the massive top rim, but the ball grabbed him by the fingers. Waseem was good enough to recover and fire off a quick throw that Wiese would have caught short had the keeper gone back to the wicket.

“I was very upset because I hardly ever drop catches,” Waseem said. “It’s rare that I drop one. When I dropped it – I was under it, had it assessed, but it grabbed the fingers instead of the palm – I thought it was a big mistake, but the way Zahoor the 19th threw over, I got my confidence back.”

It was Zahoor Khan, born in Faisalabad, about 200 km north of Mian Chunnu, where Waseem started his cricket, keeping the game alive with his yorkers and an enchanting slower ball. He’s been fantastic all along at death in this World Cup. His 19th over – three runs and a wicket – against the Netherlands created something out of the blue. In the 20th against Sri Lanka, he gave up three runs and took two wickets.

Zahoor gave Waseem a second wind. He had confidence again. “The good thing is, as a death-overs bowler, I’m yorkers right,” Waseem said. “And the plan was to bowl yorkers so that even if I miss the length they have to hit the ground, which is a big hit. I wanted to avoid getting hit squarely. The idea was to get hit straight to the ground Like I did, and that’s what happened to Wiese’s wicket.”

Wiese, who had been waiting to target the two overs of spinners, was spot on when he said he expected a foul from the part-time bowler. “We didn’t really expect him to come, but when he showed up – at the end of the day he’s a part-timer – you’d expect him to miss one or two, but he bowled well tonight,” Wiese said. “He executed his skill and at the end of the day we just didn’t have enough in us. Fair play to them, well bowled.”

The evening ended in tears for Wiese. At the press conference, he sat with a stone face, staring at nothing in particular. He vowed to come back for Namibia in the 2024 T20 World Cup. Rizwan was a relived man who had won that elusive first victory. “I feel very lucky,” Rizwan said. “First win for UAE in a [T20] World Cup. Indeed, it is a proud moment. Really, we better fly back now.” Just another bittersweet final day of the first round of a T20 World Cup.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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