USA just edge the battle of the wild cards
Hosts UAE and special invitees USA completed their preparations for the tournament proper with a warm-up match at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, and it turned out to be a rather topsy-turvy encounter, the Americans eventually winning with just one wicket in hand and four balls to spare.
Their hero was Timroy Allen, who came in at the fall of the sixth wicket with his side seemingly in all kinds of trouble. Chasing an Emirati total of 142, the USA had slumped to 67 for six in the twelfth over, their cause certainly not helped by three disastrous run-outs, all of them involving Lennox Cush.
Cush and Allen added 20 before the former was trapped in front by Saqib Ali, and with the spin attack of Saqib, Khurram Khan, Irfan Haider and Shadeep Silva - the last called into the squad as a replaced for the injured Mohammed Tauqir - keeping up the pressure, the asking rate crept up to 10 an over.
Then Khurram brought back young seamer Qadar Nawaz, and Allen took full advantage, hitting a succession of boundaries and bringing the required rate down to seven in the space of a single over. Arfan came in for similar treatment, and despite the loss of Usman Shuja and then Saurabh Verma, having survived a leg-before appeal from the first ball he faced, wandered down the wicket and became the fourth run-out victim of the innings.
By this time it had become decidedly chilly, and the light had deteriorated so far that with four overs left the floodlights had come on. It was more reminiscent of Europe in a chilly July than the Arabian Desert in February.
But Allen held his nerve, and supported by Imran Awan he brought his side to the brink of victory, six needed off the final over and Allen on strike. He straight-drove Qasim Zubair's first ball for a couple, and then drove again to long on, where a misfield allowed the ball to cross the rope and the Americans were home. It was a fitting if unfortunate conclusion to the match, but Allen's undefeated 57, made from 27 deliveries with three fours and four sixes, was an innings of character and determination, and deservedly gave his side the victory.
Earlier, Saqib Ali had been the pick of the Emirati batsmen with a fine 43-ball 47, and he had shared in a stand of 44 for the fourth wicket with skipper Khurram. But although several other players got a start, each fell in turn to rash strokes, and there were three wickets apiece for Cush and Imran Awan as the UAE were dismissed off the penultimate ball of their allotted twenty overs for 141.