UAE 160/3 (18.4 overs) (Muhammad Waseem 112; Josh Little 2-17) beat Ireland (159 a.o.) (Harry Tector 50; Zahoor Khan 3-29) by seven wickets.
Sometimes someone just has your number. Muhammad Waseem has had just 12 T20 innings in his young international career. Two of those have been centuries and both have come against Ireland, the latter in a seven wicket victory for the UAE that sees them win this T20 World Cup qualifying tournament.
Ireland have had three T20I centuries hit against them in their history, and two of those have now come from Waseem. What’s more, this UAE side has now beaten the boys in green in five consecutive games.
Waseem's innings was simply magnificent, striking eight sixes and seven further boundaries as he ended up on 112 (66), falling agonisingly short of hitting the winning runs when he smashed Andy McBrine straight to Andrew Balbirnie at extra cover. The one silver lining for him was that it at least ensured he got to walk off on his own and receive the ovation he deserved from his teammates.
Before his knock took over proceedings, Ireland had looked very good value for a fourth consecutive win in this tournament. Harry Tector had continued his good form with a half-century, impressing in particular with his strokeplay over long off as Ireland posted a competitive 159 a.o. Shane Getkate - in the side for the injured George Dockrell - showed some of the promise that the backroom staff have identified in his power hitting, smashing three maximums in his innings of 30 off 19, a career best for him.
However, as has been the case throughout this tournament for Ireland, no batter took control of the innings to secure a total that put the game to bed. Tector was dismissed by a stunning diving catch by Basil Hameed, though it wasn't without controversy as the YMCA man stood his ground thinking the ball did not carry.
Getkate was then dismissed by a Zahoor Khan yorker, meaning Ireland could not push on from the platform the two had created. Still, given Balbirnie, Paul Stirling and Gareth Delany all departed in the powerplay, Ireland probably would have taken that total.
The Irish bowling effort started very well as UAE were restricted to 21/2 off the first six overs, Josh Little repeating his trick from the semi-final and striking twice in the same over, both dismissals via the short ball skied into the deep, one a slower one, the other a full-pace delivery that rushed Vriitya Aravind.
That’s when Waseem took over and turned what was a tricky chase - the required rate with 14 overs to go was over 10 an over - into a cakewalk. For sure, Ireland offered him too many deliveries that were half-trackers or in the slot, but it still takes a special innings to put every single one away over the rope with such brutal efficiency.
In the end, such a game-changing innings was the difference between the sides not just today, but throughout the tournament. Ireland have improved as a T20 side in that a number of players have put their hands up when needed with the bat; Balbirnie, Tector, Delany, Dockrell, McBrine and to a certain extend today Getkate. They weren't as reliant on talisman Stirling as they have been in the past, though a return to form for him will be most welcome, yet, one would imagine, imminent.
That is the next step for this Irish side in T20 cricket. They have identified a handful of players who can help solidify the middle order, while apart from the odd wobble at the death the efforts with the ball have been very good, but now it is time for someone to start putting together the sort of dominant innings that can win games of T20 cricket, as Waseem did today and Aravind did in the first UAE defeat earlier in the week.
Regardless of today's result, interim head coach David Ripley departs the role having done exactly what was asked of him, and then some. He has helped steer this side to another World Cup and oversaw a historic series victory over the West Indies. The players on the pitch certainly deserve all the glory, but Ripley returns to the UK with a major feather in the cap and a healthier looking CV.
Today's defeat means that Ireland will be in the same group as the West Indies and Scotland in next October's World Cup.