Hosts spring opening day's final surprise
Hosts UAE made their own contribution to the opening day upsets on Tuesday when they squeezed out a 15-run victory over Kenya at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Their quartet of left-arm spinners - Shadeep Silva, Ahmed Raza, Khurram Khan and Fayyaz Ahmed - were able to take advantage of the conditions much more effectively than the Kenyan attack had earlier in the day, bowling fifteen of the twenty overs for collective figures of four for 101. And that included a flurry of runs towards the end, when the Kenyan cause was already effectively lost.
Winning the toss and electing to bat, the Emiratis began brightly, openers Mohammad Iqbal and Arfan Haider putting on 34 at nearly ten an over against Nehemiah Odhiambo and Lameck Onyango. After Iqbal departed Abdul Rehman did not last long, but then Arfan, hitting freely, and Saqib Ali, particularly strong square of the wicket, added 61 from 51 deliveries to put the UAE in a strong position.
Arfan eventually fell to Nelson Odhiambo, having made 59 from 44 deliveries with five fours and two sixes, but Saqib continued in partnership with Khurram Khan, contributing another 41 from 29 balls. They both went in the space of three deliveries, but Naeemuddin Aslam maintained the momentum in the final couple of overs, and the UAE closed on 165 for five.
A target of over eight an over was always going to be a challenge, and when David Obuya fell in the second over it was the worst possible start for Kenya. Steve Tikolo and Alex Obanda batted positively, but both were trapped leg-before by Silva, and Kenya were struggling on 49 for three.
The ball was now firmly in the hands of the Emirati spinners, and they kept the pressure on Maurice Ouma and Collins Obuya. The Kenyan pair added 69 for the fourth wicket, but it took them 56 balls to do so, and the asking rate was beginning to climb alarmingly. Ahmed Raza was particularly stingy, conceding just 17 from his four overs and dismissing Ouma and Rakep Patel with successive deliveries in the 18th over to settle the issue.
47 were needed from the final two overs, and even though Collins Obuya and Jimmy Kamande managed to get 31 of them, it was a case off too little too late, and the UAE were home by 15 runs. Arfan Haider won the Man of the Match award for his enterprising half-century.