Bermuda show fight but still lose comfortably
Josh Ball, The Royal Gazette
The end, when it came, was as swift as many might have expected, but that didn't make it any less painful.
United Arab Emirates wrapped up a nine-wicket win over Bermuda with one and a bit days to go, and completed a result that had seemingly been on the cards since just after lunch on the first day.
The visitors have booked their spot in the final of the Intercontinental Shield in Dubai in November, and they will be joined by either Uganda and Namibia who play each other in September.
But how different it might have been. How Bermuda wish they could take back that first, awful day.
How Bermuda's batsmen must be cursing their loss of focus at crucial times, none more so than yesterday.
The home side began the day on 107 for one, and were hoping to get to lunch without losing a wicket.
That went out the window when Stephen Outerbridge (62) and Chris Foggo (60) both got out inside the first hour.
Outerbridge was first to go, caught at deep backward square by Tahir Butt off Arshad Ali's first ball of the day.
Foggo fell in a similarly lax manner, having crashed Qasim Zubair for four through gully, he then attempted to repeat the shot the next ball, and was caught by Amjad Ali.
At 165 for three, Bermuda were on the back foot. They didn't stay that way.
Skipper David Hemp (84) and Irving Romaine (48) put on 98 for the fourth wicket, and had UAE rattled to such an extent that they even tried to claim a catch when the fielder had clearly stepped over the boundary while trying to hold on to the ball.
Things became a little heated for a while, with Romaine and several UAE players exchanging pleasantries as skipper Khurram Khan remonstrated rather forcibly with umpires Roger Dill and Richard Austin.
At this point Bermuda were 263 for three, 37 runs behind UAE, and looking more than capable of batting through the majority of the day, and possibly setting their opponents a bigger total than the 33 they eventually had to chase.
UAE's bowlers started to struggle with their line and length, the ball disappeared over the boundary on a regular basis and for a while Bermuda could dare to dream.
However, as with so many times in the past, the team were their own worst enemies.
Romaine took a wild swing at a Ahmed Raza delivery and was given out stumped, even though he looked to be in his crease, and Shannon Rayner (10) and Rodney Trott (0) soon followed as Bermuda limped in to tea at 288 for six.
Hemp was out soon after tea, and from there defeat was inevitable Raza was the pick of the UAE bowlers yesterday, the spinner bowled 35.3 overs in all, including a 20 over spell, and took four wickets for 55 runs, also picking up the scalps of Jordan DeSilva and Joshua Gilbert as Bermuda were eventually all out for 332.
"It just shows you that when you play four day cricket, you have to be on the job for four days," said Bermuda coach David Moore.
"And we played poorly the first day, and that cost us the start, but then we played well for one and two-third days, and then we lost concentration in short bursts and it cost us the opportunity to make a big lead and put them under pressure.
"We got two 60s, an 80 and a 48, and those players who were set really need to go on and make a big score, those are the things that win you four day games. The wicket was playing well, so there was a lot of life left in the game, but once they had to chase 33 it was going to make life very difficult indeed.
"I thought that the longer we batted the better chance we had of winning the game, and so we were quite focused in trying to do that, but then we lost focus a couple of times, and it really hurt us."
From looking in control mid-way through the day, Bermuda's frailties in certain areas again got the best of them.
And it will have been doubly frustrating, given the doubts that had begun to creep into the UAE team when Hemp and Romaine were on top.
Moore has no doubts about problems behind the national team's continued failings at the highest level. It comes from a domestic game that has too many average players, playing mediocre cricket.
"I think clearly the boys can play, but clearly the competition they are receiving on this Island isn't......there is too big a gap between domestic cricket on this Island and international cricket.
"Unfortunately what's happening is it's taking them one innings to get into the game. Once they get into the game you can see that they can play that standard of cricket, but to be able to prepare yourself for international cricket you've actually got to play good, hard cricket all the time.
"And at the moment there is a big gulf between international cricket and domestic cricket, which we have got to shorten."
UAE really should have won the game by 10 wickets, but having to only chase 33 made opener Abdul Rehman careless and he was run out going for a single that Usain Bolt wouldn't have taken.
Still his side won comfortably enough, and have been rewarded for their efforts with two days off to explore the Island.
"Bermuda got stuck in with a few partnerships and stuff, which you expected from a four day game, but we didn't expect them to fight back quite so hard," said UAE coach Colin Wells.
"With a day and a bit to go it was a very comprehensive win, we're very pleased, we're through to the final, what can I say, we're delighted.
"Raza got into an excellent rhythm, he hit a good line and length, and watch from behind the arm he was bowling three basically unplayable deliveries an over. His figures speak for themselves.
"And obviously from there Bermuda were going to get out, and they did.
"The boys are going to get two days off, they've earned it. They haven't been to Bermuda before, some of them won't come back again. They've worked very hard today, we're at the end of our cricket season, and they're going to have two days off and enjoy themselves."