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The Big Match - Emirates Fly High

The victorious UAE Team

Hong Kong v UAE – Hong Kong C.C., February 10, 11, 12 2005

UAE 203 for 9 declared and 222 for 5 beat Hong Kong 251 for 7 declared and 173 by 5 wickets.

In a game of fluctuating fortunes, the Emirates' commitment to success and hunger for victory led them to claim the first ACC Fast Track Tournament.

Needing an outright victory to claim the trophy, the UAE played a game of immense strategy as they focussed on the task of beating Hong Kong within two days, the first day's play having been washed out completely.

Missing three key players, the Emirates were nevertheless confident of performing well, having performed creditably the week before arriving in Hong Kong against Bangladesh A. On winning the toss, Emirates captain Mohammed Tauqir inserted the opposition and would have been only moderately pleased with Hong Kong's 251 for 4 declared off 87.1 overs. The bowling and fielding had been tight and hostile, yet Hong Kong – knowing that a draw would have been enough to give them the title - may have played into the Emirates' hands by not attacking harder.

At one stage, they had been 117 for 1 with both Rahul Sharma (48) and Roy Lamsam (89) going well and the UAE threat largely blunted.

In reply the UAE struggled against the pace of Afzaal Haider, being 18 for 4 after only 9 overs. But all-rounder Syed Maqsood stood firm and made a supremely untroubled 100 while wickets tumbled around him at regular intervals. Hong Kong rued three grassed chances but for which the UAE may well have struggled to reach 200. The run-rate however, was close to four an over from the UAE as they sought to give themselves enough time to bowl Hong Kong out in their second innings.

UAE's Syed Maqsood with Hong Kong's Tim Smart behind him.

Overnight, with just one day to play, Hong Kong were 163 ahead with six wickets in hand with their captain Tim Smart 48*. In a runs v time equation Hong Kong would have been looking to bat for as long as possible and put the UAE out of the game. The UAE however, gave it their all in the field and Hong Kong were often left grimly trying to survive against extremely challenging bowling.

All the UAE bowlers contributed, not least the spinners, but it was the pace of Ali Asad (2 for 29), Javed Ismail (4 for 24) and Syed Maqsood (3 for 44) ably backed up by wicket-keeper Mohammed Taskeen who claimed seven victims, which accounted for Hong Kong as they were blitzkrieged into 173 all out.

That left the UAE to score 222 off a minimum of 81 overs which, thanks to an aggressive century opening-stand between Asghar Ali (80) and Mohammed Nadeem (41), they always looked like getting. In the end, it was fitting that Man of the Match Syed Maqsood hit the winning runs as the Emirates cruised home by five wickets in the 54th over of their innings.

Hong Kong fought well and didn't get the rub of the green but they were ultimately beaten by a team who just 'wanted it more'. It had been a triumph for the Emirates game-plan and fierce desire with which they played. They, like everyone else in Fast Track had taken a while to adapt to the demands of three-day cricket, but their performance in Hong Kong showed that they are fast learners.

For them, Inaugural Fast track champions, as well as Hong Kong, tougher challenges lie ahead in the ICC Intercontinental Cup which sees them play three-day cricket at first-class level. England A tour the UAE in the coming weeks and can expect a tough contest against a team brimming with confidence.

Delighted by his team's victory, UAE captain Mohammed Tauqir said, "This victory was due to the whole team who have performed well throughout the year. I am confident we can continue our good form into next season." "We have once again proved that we are one of Asia's strongest teams," remarked Mazhar Khan, Emirates Cricket Board Administrator.

Filed 14th February 2005

Scorecard: Cricinfo.com