Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi witnessed a stunning win from the hosts against Ireland in a one-day international cricket match, backed up by the elegant centuries from C P Rizwan and Mohammed Usman. The six-wicket win was just the second time the UAE have beaten a Test-playing nation in ODI cricket, after their win over Zimbabwe in 2018.
It was also their first win in seven attempts against Ireland in ODIs. In truth, they have rarely got close. The last time the sides met, in Harare two-and-a-half-years ago, Ireland won by a massive 226 runs.
Rizwan and Usman’s centuries were their first in ODIs. Their alliance, worth 184, was the highest four-wicket stand against Ireland, beat Eoin Morgan and Tom Banton’s effort in the last game they played last summer. The portents had not been good on the morning of the game, as the UAE made their return to competitive cricket for the first time in nearly 11 months.
Ahead of the toss, it was announced that two of the players in the 17-man squad in Abu Dhabi had tested positive for corona virus. The Emirates Cricket Board confirmed that vice-captain Chirag Suri and newcomer Aryan Lakra had tested positive for Covid 19.
“Both players are currently in isolation, are being monitored and are in good health,” the ECB said in statement. “All areas were immediately and thoroughly sanitised as per existing protocols with no further positive tests returned”, they added.
The match went ahead as scheduled, with the home side handing ODI debuts to 17-year-old batsman Alishan Sharafu and Kashif Daud, the 34-year-old allrounder.
Daud, a coach from Sharjah, started his international career in fine fashion, picking up the prize wicket of Kevin O’Brien. That was rare cheer for the hosts, though, as Paul Stirling and Andy Balbirnie took the Irish to 141 for one by the end of the 28th over.
Rohan Mustafa pegged the Irish back with two quick wickets, but the tourists still reached 269-5. Stirling ended unbeaten on 131. It was his second century in successive innings, as he had piloted Ireland’s win over world champions England the last time out.
UAE were struggling in reply, as the lurched to 51-3, only for a record-breaking stand from Rizwan and Usman to take them to victory. The sides will meet again in the second of four ODIs, at the Zayed Cricket Stadium on Sunday.