England Lions secured an unconvincing 16-run with in their third and final unofficial ODI against UAE on Monday.
Several batsmen got out after making starts in the Lions’ batting effort, with the top nine all reaching double figures, but none passing fifty.
However, some economical bowling from Ollie Rayner and Craig Overton meant that the UAE’s reply never really got going, and despite Adnan Mufti‘s valiant knock, the hosts ultimately fell short.
The tourists made several changes from the side that dismissed their opponents for 90 in the second fixture. Skipper Keaton Jennings was missing after flying to India, where he will link up with the Test squad; Daniel Bell-Drummond took his place at the top of the order, with Middlesex’s Nick Gubbins taking over as captain.
After combined figures of 8-23 in the last game, Tom Curran and Jack Leach were both rested, with Sam Curran and Ollie Rayner replacing them in the side. Tom Helm was omitted in favour of Stuart Meaker.
Amjad Javed won the toss, and decided that he would take the option to bowl. This paid early dividends: the skipper removed Bell-Drummond before he could get going, and 37-year-old seamer Mohammad Shahzad removed Gubbins and Tom Alsop to leave the visitors reeling at 45-3 after fifteen overs.
Joe Clarke (42) and Liam Livingstone (29) rebuilt in the middle overs, but the Emirates’ spinners – especially Ahmed Raza – kept plugging away and kept things tight.
The Surrey pair of Ben Foakes and Curran struggled to inject any momentum into the innings, but Overton’s late flourish of 21* off 11 balls saw the visitors reach a respectable total.
31-year-old seamer Qadeer Ahmed bowled excellently at the back of the innings, finishing with figures of 3-48 from his ten overs including the wickets of Livingstone, Curran and James Fuller.
The UAE’s response started poorly, with Curran and Fuller picking up an early wicket each. A 48-run partnership between Rohan Mustafa and Muhammad Usman threatened to frustrate the Lions, but Ollie Rayner dismissed both within the space of three balls, and after Overton removed Mohammad Qasim for a 19-ball one, it looked as though the tourists might run through the hosts’ lower order.
However, left-hander Adnan Mufti had other ideas. The 31-year-old – who is yet to play an official ODI or T20I for the UAE – took advantage of some wayward deliveries from Meaker, and successfully rotated the strike off the part-time leg-spin of Livingstone to edge the UAE ever closer to their target.
Just as it looked like Mufti would run out of partners, the Rawalpindi-born all-rounder slammed Curran for four at the start of the 47th over, and number eleven Ahmed repeated the trick later in the over.
But at the start of the penultimate over, with 18 required, Mufti swiped a Curran delivery to mid-wicket, and was run out looking for a second run to give the Lions an unconvincing win.
Craig Overton and Ollie Rayner did themselves credit with three wickets apiece while both conceding under three runs per over, but Meaker’s expensive figures will be a cause for concern.
The Lions’ next fixture is a four-day game against Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi, which begins on Wednesday.