Rohan Mustafa stops Ireland in their tracks at T20 World Cup qualifier
Brilliant all-round performance hands the UAE a big scalp in Abu Dhabi
Ireland batsman Paul Stirling in action during his knock of 72 against the United Arab Emirates at the T20 World Cup qualifier in Abu Dhabi. Photograph: ICC
A brilliant all-round performance Rohan Mustafa helped the United Arab Emirates secure a comfortable five-wicket victory over Ireland in the T20 World Cup qualifier in Abu Dhabi on Saturday night.
The former UAE skipper delighted home fans by taking four wickets for just 18 runs as Ireland were restricted to 125 from their 25 overs before belting 39 from 16 balls at the top of the order to set his side on the way to victory.
In the end they got home with three overs to spare to deny Ireland a second straight win in the competition after their opening success over Hong Kong.
After losing the toss and being sent in, openers Paul Stirling and Kevin O’Brien looked to hit out early on what was a harder batting wicket than on Friday. After hitting two boundaries, O’Brien (14) fell to a diving catch at mid-wicket by Ashfaq Ahmed, bringing the in-form Andrew Balbirnie to the crease.
Stirling and Balbirnie looked to back up their 86-run stand against Hong Kong, however on this occasion they could only muster 29 between them. Balbirnie was again looking confident until he fell to a neat catch for 11. Two further wickets fell as the batting became difficult in no small part thanks to tight spin bowling deployed by the home side, and suddenly Ireland was precariously poised at 68 for four.
Stirling needed a partner to stay with him, and Mark Adair seemed the man. The pair put on a patient 52-run stand, which was more a partnership of turning the strike over than striking boundaries.
Stirling brought up his 15th career half-century off 47 balls, and was looking to bat the innings out. However, after getting to 72 from 58 balls, Stirling was called through by Adair for a tight second run and was caught just short.
Stirling’s dismissal was the beginning of an end-of-innings collapse that saw an incredible six wickets fall in the last 9 balls, with Ireland finishing all out for 125.
In response, the UAE made run-scoring look easy, blasting 32 runs from the first two overs. Mustafa was the early destroyer, until his stay was cut short, beaten for pace by David Delany and has his stumps rattled.
The run-rate continued to tick over at nine runs an over, with Ireland’s captain Gary Wilson rotating his bowlers to try make the breakthrough. Boyd Rankin slanted one across the left-handed Mohammad Usman (29) and had him caught behind, and Harry Tector created two late run outs through great fielding at point in the latter overs, but in the end the Irish total proved too low to defend and the UAE ran out winners by five wickets.
After the game Wilson said: “We felt batting was difficult. Paul [Stirling] is one of the best ball strikers in world cricket and he was telling us it was difficult going. But obviously when Rohan [Mustafa] comes out and plays like that it kills the game. I thought we bowled relatively well after that, but as I said, I thought he killed the game by getting UAE off to a great start.
“I thought the UAE bowled very well, they knew the conditions well, which certainly helped them, but hopefully we’ll come back strong in a couple of days against Oman [on Monday]. Of course there are areas of our game that need to be better, but credit must go firstly to the UAE boys for the way they played.”
Ireland 125 (20 ovs) (P Stirling 72; R Mustafa 4-18),UAE 129-5 (17 ov) (R Mustafa 39; M Adair 1-21). UAE won by 5 wickets.