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UAE and Oman advance to the ACC Premier Cup Final.

UAE and Oman advance to the ACC Premier Cup Final.

After defeating Nepal and Hong Kong in the semi-finals of the ACC Premier Cup today, the United Arab Emirates and their hosts, Oman, advanced to the finals at al Amerat. This means that an all-Gulf match will take place on Sunday to decide which team will represent the Asia Cup alongside the Full Members.

In the early semi-final, the UAE defeated their opponents, Nepal, limiting them to just 119/9 before Alasan Sharafu’s half-century took them home with 16 balls and 6 wickets remaining, maintaining their spotless record versus Nepal on the field.

With just two runs scored in the opening over, Nepal was put on the back foot quickly as Junaid Siddique took advantage of the early swing to strike first ball and snip off Kushal Bhurtel’s first ball. Young seamers Omid Shafi Rahman, who was on his debut tour for the UAE, and Ali Naseer, who both scored in their opening stints as Nepal faltered to 38/3 in seven overs, provided him with solid support at the top of the order.

Nepal was prevented from entering the game by the spinners. Basil Hameed took 2 for 4 in his two overs, demonstrating exceptional effectiveness. With a 40-ball fifty to halt the slide, Sundeep Jora attempted to keep the innings going, but the momentum eventually evaporated when he was bowled out by legspinner Umar Farooq. Both Gulshan Hha and Karan KC made a valiant attempt at a late counterattack, but the Emirati seamers came back to finish well at the end, leaving Nepal struggling to an inadequate score by the halfway point of the innings.

Throughout the day, the batting conditions became better and better until the total never seemed reasonable. Despite their best efforts, Nepal could never muster enough runs to overcome the UAE top-order. After losing his captain Muhammad Wasim to Sompal Kami in the second over, young Alishan Sharafu led the pursuit the entire way, advancing with Vishnu Sukumaran and Asif Khan. Before the Emiratis reached three digits, Gulshan Jha would rob Sharafu of those two partners, and Lalit Rajbanshi had Syed Haider LBW.

Sharafu, though, was not to be discouraged. After bringing the score level and pulling Jha in front of the square off the first ball of the eighteenth, he sliced the next ball up over backward point for four to secure the victory and a spot in the final.

In the second semifinal, hosts Oman defeated Hong Kong in a closely contested, if mostly awkward, match thanks to a fantastic all-around performance by Aaqib Ilyas. With a spell of 3 for 14 and a match-winning 62* in the reply, Ilyas was by far the most impressive player in a match that most of the other players would probably like to forget.

Early on in the Hong Kong innings, Kaleemullah made a breakthrough that caused Martic Coetzee to go behind, and then Anshuman Rath was dismissed by Bilal Khan. Hong Kong’s problems were exacerbated by Ilyas’s arrival following the powerplay, as his combination of wrist-spin and off-spin explained the remaining top order. Once more, he completed his four overs without ever being put over the rope. Although Zeeshan Ali, batting at number seven, put up a valiant fight in the closing stages with an undefeated 36, the total of 130/9 was far short of par at the half.

Hong Kong’s hopes were revived when Kashyap Prajapati was caught behind by Ayush Shukla in another first-ball wicket. Ilyas would not be moved, even if wickets kept falling at the other end. Ilyas remained at the crease due to a string of mishandled run-out opportunities and loose catches, but Aizaz Khan claimed three wickets in a row to limit the scoring. Just after reaching his half century, he would get another reprieve, and with seven balls left, the score was tied at 121/5. But Ilyas only needed two more balls to complete the chase, as he lifted Shukla for six over midwicket on the opening delivery of the last over and then executed a sweep to dab the next one beyond of the keeper for four.

As a result of the outcome, the United Arab Emirates and Oman will both be represented at the 2024 ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup, which will take place in November in Sri Lanka. Full member “A” teams and the winner of tomorrow’s third-place play-off between Hong Kong and Nepal will also be present. The Sunday final will determine which of the two Gulf states advances to the Asia Cup itself.

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