STAND­ING ROOM ONLY AS UAE GO DOWN FIGHT­ING TO NEW ZEALAND

Crowds pack In­sportz Club in Dubai as Ry­der’s side win by 125 runs to 111, writes Paul Radley

The National - News - - SPORT -

Aware­house in Al Quoz is an un­likely place for a World Cup. Not that the flag­ship event of cricket’s in­door va­ri­ety is ex­actly one of in­ter­na­tional sport’s most renown events, of course.

Un­like Fifa, Uefa, or even the ICC, the World In­door Cricket Fed­er­a­tion prob­a­bly did not pay much thought to em­pow­er­ing a lo­cal or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee to dream up a park-and-ride scheme to man­age the weight of traf­fic for their event.

Maybe they should have done, given the re­sound­ing pop­u­lar­ity of Day 1 of the In­door Cricket World Cup Dubai 2017.

And the car­nage of try­ing to find space to park, ei­ther on the sand or in the laneways around the bak­eries and garages of Al Quoz 3, was noth­ing com­pared to what was go­ing on in­side.

When the UAE played New Zealand in the first round of the Open Men’s com­pe­ti­tion, it was stand­ing room only.

In­dia and Sri Lanka might have been play­ing matches on the neigh­bour­ing courts, but it was clear who the ma­jor­ity were here to see.

The nar­row view­ing areas be­side the small block of wooden bleach­ers be­hind the bowler’s arm were 10 deep by the end.

Noise boomed down off the sports cen­tre’s tin ceil­ing. When Sameer Nayak smacked the last ball of the fourth over of the UAE’s re­ply for a six – which, be­cause of the pe­cu­liar­i­ties of in­door cricket, counts as seven – it felt as though the roof was go­ing to come off.

Nayak him­self let out a roar, know­ing the blow had se­cured the host na­tion their first “skin” of the com­pe­ti­tion.

Each in­door cricket in­ter­na­tional is di­vided into four seg­ments of four overs, ba­si­cally a bat­tle be­tween the re­spec­tive pairs of each team.

Even though the home team even­tu­ally lost over­all by 125 runs to 111, they only trailed in the sec­ond set of four overs – which was the seg­ment in which Jesse Ry­der, the New Zealand Test player, bat­ted.

The UAE might have lost the match in the fi­nal count up, but won three of the four skins.

As such, New Zealand got four points over­all from the match – three for the win, and one for a skin – to the UAE’s three.

No won­der they ap­peared the hap­pier side when they left the court, to a mas­sive ova­tion from the sup­port­ers.

“We play to win and los­ing is not a good feel­ing in­side, but we have a moral vic­tory be­cause we got three skins from a qual­ity side like New Zealand,” Saqib Nazir, the UAE cap­tain, said.

“No­body ex­pected that. We be­lieve in our abil­ity. This team will go far.

“We need to cap­i­talise when we get chances, and we could have done bet­ter bowl­ing.”

An­other un­ex­pected event was the pre-match Haka de­liv­ered by the New Zealan­ders, al­though Nazir re­vealed his side knew the war dance was planned.

They even had a re­sponse ready.

“We wanted to do the UAE tra­di­tional dance, but un­for­tu­nately we are not al­lowed to dance,” Nazir said.

South Africa, In­dia and de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Aus­tralia were also win­ners on a rous­ing day for the for­mat.

“Cricket is grow­ing at a fast pace in this re­gion, and we hope the World Cup will play a sig­nif­i­cant role in grow­ing the sport in the re­gion,” Greg Donnelly, the pres­i­dent of the WICF, said.

“While in­door cricket has a strong base in coun­tries like Aus­tralia, New Zealand and South Africa, it is heart­en­ing to see coun­tries like Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore here with us, it is a sign that the fu­ture of the sport is se­cure.”

Pawan Singh / The Na­tional

Jesse Ry­der helped New Zealand to a 14-run vic­tory over hosts UAE in their In­door Cricket World Cup opener at In­sportz Club in Dubai

Pawan Singh / The Na­tional

Fans who braved the short­age of park­ing were met with a fes­tive at­mo­sphere

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