Scotland also secure a place in ICC World Cup 2015 to be hosted in Australia and N. Zealand
The agonising wait of 18 years is over. UAE, who played at the Cricket World Cup way back in 1996, on Thursday qualified for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 after clinching a convincing 36-run victory over Namibia on the last day of the Super Six stage of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier New Zealand 2014 in Christchurch.
UAE will face Scotland, who also secured a World Cup berth after defeating Kenya by three wickets on Thursday, in the qualifier final at Lincoln Oval, Christchurch, on Saturday. The final will determine which group the teams will join at the World Cup, to be held in Australia and New Zealand from February 14 to March 29, 2015.
The winner of the final will join England, Australia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Afghanistan in Group A while the loser will be clubbed in Group B alongwith South Africa, India, Pakistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe and Ireland.
A total of 14 teams will contest the World Cup, comprising ICC’s 10 full member nations and four affiliate countries. Ireland and Afghanistan secured two of the affiliate spots last year.
“You can’t describe in words the feeling,” UAE captain Khurram Khan said. “I’ve been playing for UAE since 2001 and it is an amazing feeling to help my team to qualify. It’s been very, very hard to make it this far. Most of us are part-time cricketers — we are not professionals. This is for everyone who trusted us and believed in us,” he said.
The 42-year old Khan, who is also the leading run-getter of the tournament with 547 runs, said his side is looking forward to returning to New Zealand in one year’s time. “New Zealand is a special country for us. The grounds were awesome, the crowds supported us, the wickets suited us. We are coming back for the World Cup – we’ll work hard and see how it goes.”
Khan, who played a stellar role in UAE’s victories in qualifying matches, was back at his best again in the crucial encounter, making an useful 49 off 83 balls and helped his team, who chose to bat first, post a competitive 263 all out in 49.5 overs.
Amjad Javed, who picked up three wickets for 35, turned out to be the star bowler for UAE as he first denied Namibia a flying start and claimed wickets at crucial times to restrict them to 227 for nine.
ICC chief executive David Richardson congratulated the teams: “Congratulations to Scotland and UAE for a tremendous effort in qualifying to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. It has been a tough tournament, one in which every game counts, and both teams have performed remarkably well to finish in the top two.”
UAE coach and former Pakistan Test bowler Aqib Javed, who was instrumental in the team’s turnaround, said: “It was a tough task coming to New Zealand, and making the top two. They had in their mind that the pitches would have lot of sideways movement. But in seven games our batting has done really well. And now they are saying these conditions are good for cricket. There won’t be any hurdle coming back to play in Australia and New Zealand. They’re excited now.”
The skipper’s decisive 100-run partnership with Amjad Ali, who chipped in with 46 off 67 balls, rescued UAE, who lost opener Salman Faris (0) in the second over itself. Shaiman Anwar (47) and Swapnil Patil (38) too chipped in with useful contributions, while Nambibia struck back through Louis Klazinga, who claimed five wickets for 36.
Namibia lost their way despite their captain Sarel Burger (54) hitting a half-century, while the knocks of Gerrie Snyman (48) and Nicolaas Scholtz (33) gave hopes for the team.