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The associate cricket fans couldn't have wished for a better start to associate cricket. Not only did the first match after the pandemic went right down to the wire, but we also saw an upset with the United Arab Emirates beating Ireland. That win for UAE has now set up the series beautifully. Ireland was a stronger team, to begin with, and being 1-0 behind, it is going to be challenging for them.
The second match of the series is to be played on 10th January 2021 at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi. We saw in the first match there was almost nothing to choose between the two sides and the second match is expected to be a humdinger as well.
Contrary to what everyone expected, it weren't the usual suspects who stood up for the home team. Chundangapoyil Rizwan and Muhammad Usman scored scintillating centuries to guide UAE home. It wasn't easy for them considering they came at a time when their side was struggling with three down at 51, but they certainly did make it look easy.
Going into the second match, UAE's batting looks pretty settled even without Chirag Suri, one of their most experienced batsmen. This is exactly the opposite to how it looked before the series started. They looked over-reliant on a couple of batsmen and appeared to be lacking the depth. However, with two of their middle-order scoring a century each in the first match, UAE's batting looks as good as ever. Besides, their batsmen will have the advantage of playing at the home turf, which those batsmen have played on, day in and day out in recent times. In the upcoming match, their batsmen at the top would want to fare a lot better, though.
With the ball, UAE would want their new-ball bowlers to deliver better results. In the previous match, Zahoor Khan and Kashif Daud never looked threatening, and had it not been for their middle-over bowlers, UAE would have had to chase a lot higher score. Rohan Mustafa was the pick of their bowlers, picking up 43 for 2 in his 10 overs. He was ably supported by Ahmed Raza, who picked up one wicket. However, apart from those two, there was no one else that could keep things tight for the hosts.
All in all, UAE appears to be a lot better team than they looked like before the first match was played. Their middle-order looks sorted, but the top-order needs to get some runs. The same seems to be the case with their bowling as well. If their new-ball bowlers can pick wickets or at least keep things quiet, United Arab Emirate may record their second straight victory of the series.
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Ireland would be gutted to lose the first match of the series. They had the upper hand for the most part of the match and poor bowling in the second half of the second innings cost them the match. However, even despite the loss, there were plenty of positives that the Irish team would take into the second match of the series.
The first of those would be the form Paul Stirling appeared to be in. He smashed his 10th hundred in One Day Internationals and even though he never looked in his vintage rampaging mood, he did enough to deflate the hosts' bowlers. Had he had the support from the other bowlers, Ireland would have been in a better position at the halfway stage.
Opposite to how UAE fared, Ireland's new-ball bowlers were brilliant upfront, picking up three quick wickets, but they lacked depth in the middle overs. Barring Barry McCarthy, none of their bowlers looked lethal enough and when someone did, it was too late.
On paper, Ireland still have a pretty good side and they're certainly are areas where they can improve. They'd want a better contribution from their spinners and middle-order batsmen, and if that happens, United Arab Emirates won't find it as easy as they did in the first match.
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A win for UAE has set the series up beautifully. The underdogs are now ahead and Ireland will have to do a lot better in the upcoming matches. While Ireland won't be disappointed yet with their performance in the last match, there are clear areas where they'd need to improve at. They have enough experience to make those improvements quickly and, therefore, we think that they are better placed to emerge on top in the upcoming match.
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