One-man wrecking ball Rohan Mustafa leads UAE upset of Ireland
United Arab Emirates 129 for 5 (Mustafa 39) beat Ireland 125 (Stirling 72, Mustafa 4-18) by five wickets
Rohan Mustafa did wonders to lift the recent gloom around the UAE squad with a spectacular all-round show, playing a role in eight of Ireland's ten wickets, before a blistering 39 off 16 balls to propel UAE's chase in a five-wicket win over Ireland on Saturday night in Abu Dhabi.
It was UAE's second victory in T20 cricket over Ireland in nine attempts, with their only previous win coming by five runs in the second match of a two-match series in 2016, also in Abu Dhabi.
One night after UAE struggled against Oman upon being sent in, the hosts seized on the opportunity to send Ireland in to bat first under lights and never let the opposition batting order get going. Paul Stirling scored nine of Ireland's 12 boundaries on the night, but they were sprinkled around a grinding knock in which he took 47 balls to reach his half-century.
Mustafa first appeared on the scorecard in the ninth over when he intercepted a drive from Andy Balbirnie at extra cover to give captain Ahmed Raza a wicket. He then got into the act with the ball in the following over as Harry Tector yorked himself charging a full delivery from Mustafa's zippy offspin and Gary Wilson slog swept to deep midwicket to end the 12th.
Mustafa returned in the final over, when he had a hand in claiming four wickets - beginning with the dismissal of Mark Adair, in similar fashion to Tector. Three balls earlier, Mustafa - at long-on - had run out Stirling coming back for a second. He then ran out George Dockrell off his own bowling three balls into the last over with a hurried relay to keeper Mohammad Boota, who did well to collect and flick on to the stumps. David Delany was then trapped with a full and straight delivery before Mustafa collected a relay from Sultan Ahmed on the boundary to break the stumps for Ireland's final wicket, Boyd Rankin, on the last ball of the innings.
Eight of Mustafa's first nine scoring shots to start the chase were boundaries; three consecutive straight drives over mid-on, a sweep over square leg, consecutive reverse sweeps over backward point, and back-to-back drives through extra cover. The main reason no more came the rest of the way centred on Darius D'Silva's struggle to get singles and put Mustafa back on strike.
That loss of rhythm eventually disrupted Mustafa enough to lose his wicket. Having faced nine of the first 12 balls in the chase - striking seven of them for four - he only faced seven deliveries across the next five overs. Growing impatient, he swiped hard trying to cut the first delivery he saw from fast bowler Delany and wound up having his stumps knocked back for 39.
But Muhammad Usman picked up where Mustafa left off and continued to punish the Ireland bowling unit, cutting and pulling a series of boundaries. He made a brisk 29 off 20 before Rankin claimed him with a gem that squared him up off a good length for an edge behind.
By that stage, though, UAE needed just 29 off 48 balls. After a pair of sloppy run outs, Waheed Ahmed settled nerves with a heaved six over cow corner to bring UAE one shot away from victory. Another four through midwicket clinched victory with three overs to spare.