MELBOURNE: The UAE were all but knocked out of the T20 World Cup after suffering a comprehensive 79-run loss to Sri Lanka.
Following their narrow loss to the Netherlands on the opening day, the UAE had to beat Asia Cup winners Sri Lanka in order to stand any chance of progressing to the Super 12s stage of the competition.
However, despite a magical spell of bowling from Karthik Meiyappan, who became the first UAE player to take a T20I hat-trick in history, the UAE collapsed in a heap with the bat, all out for 73.
“Lately the batting hasn’t clicked for us,” said Meiyappan at the close of play, “and that is something that we have to be concerned about. Firstly, to only put up 112 against the Netherlands … and today again, it felt like the batters could’ve cashed in as it felt like 152 on that wicket was quite chaseable.”
The result means that the UAE are all but officially knocked out of the competition and are still without a win in T20 World Cups after going none from two so far in Australia and losing all three of their games when they last qualified in 2014.
Matches have so far been low-scoring in Geelong, where the slow wicket combined with a thick outfield has made runs hard to come by.
And so, having won the toss and elected to field, the UAE had cause for concern when Sri Lanka got off to a flier. After five overs, the score was 47-1 with opener Pathum Nissanka (74 off 60) setting the early pace.
Along with Dhanjaya de Silva, the pair seemed to be taking the game comfortably in Sri Lanka’s direction, as they took the score to 92-1 after 11 overs and then 117-2 after 15.5.
But then carnage would ensue in the UAE’s brightest period of the game, as 22-year-old leg spinner Meiyappan, who trained with Indian Premier League side Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2021, became the first UAE player in history to take a T20I hat-trick and just the fifth player to do so at a T20 World Cup.
First, he had Banuka Rajapaksa caught at deep cover, before consecutive googlies removed Charith Asalanka and captain Dasun Shanaka. The last wicket ripping through bat-and-pad sent Meiyappan on a celebratory lap of the ground.
“It still hasn’t sunk in the fact that I’ve got a hat-trick in a T20 World Cup, and to be the first UAE bowler to do so,” said Meiyappan. “It’s a really proud moment and feels amazing.”
Things would get even better for the UAE, as they would take a fourth wicket in seven balls as 16-year-old Aayan Khan had Wanindu Hasaranga caught on the boundary to leave Sri Lanka 120-6 and the match in the balance.
But, that would be as good as it got, as a late flourish from Nissanka would lift Sri Lanka to a strong final total of 152-8.
The UAE needed a bright start in response, but their chase was immediately derailed when Sri Lankan fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera took three wickets in the powerplay, before Chirag Suri fell to Pramod Liyanagamage to leave the UAE 21-4 and see the game all but finished before UAE’s innings had even really begun.
There would be no let up from Sri Lanka either, as the introduction of spin and Hasaranga (4-1-8-3) to the attack made things even worse for the UAE as the wickets continued to tumble with regularity. Out of the 11 batters that took to the crease, only Suri (14), Aayan Khan (19) and Junaid Siddique (18) made double figures.
“Obviously, making the World Cup was an achievement itself, but the main goal was to reach the Super 12s,” said Meiyappan.
“As of now I think going forward for us will be the 2023 World Cup in India and that’s what we’ll be preparing for.”
For Sri Lanka, the result means they go into what is in effect a knockout match against the Netherlands in two days time to decide who will make it through to the next round, meanwhile the UAE will finish their competition against Namibia requiring a mathematically miraculous combination of results to see them through.