An emotional UAE skipper Ahmed Raza said after his team defeated Nepal to qualify for the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia later this year that the team members were finally feeling great to be a "part of the elite group", adding that it was a "huge achievement" and a "very emotional one".The 33-year-old Raza produced a player-of-the-match performance during UAE's 68-run win against Nepal and couldn't hold back tears after the historic achievement."I feel part of an elite group now. It is a huge achievement, and it is a very emotional one because it has been a very long journey," said Raza to ICC.Raza represented his country at the 2014 Men's ICC T20 World Cup, only to miss out on selection for the 50-over World Cup a year later. He put the disappointment behind him and travelled to Australia as a fan to cheer on his team-mates during that 50-over World Cup in 2015.Raza now finds himself back on the big stage following a match-winning show against Nepal in the semifinals of the T20 World Cup Qualifier A.
"The struggle has been real," Raza said after the victory. "The last time I went to a World Cup was in 2014 (the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh), and I didn't make it to Australia in 2015. So this was very special and very emotional. It was surreal when everything was falling into place for us. I was thinking: the game is not over yet, the game is not over yet. At the back of my mind, I knew it was."In that moment, it felt like my life has come full circle now. Last time UAE played, I wasn't in the squad, but I still went there (to Australia). Life is taking me back there now, hopefully still as captain of UAE. I helped my team to qualify, and there are not many captains who have done that for UAE in the past," added Raza.
The skipper will have to wait for the outcome of his team's Qualifier A final against Ireland on Thursday to know which group the UAE end up in for the tournament in Australia.Ireland too booked their place at the T20 World Cup with a 56-run win over Oman on Tuesday and will enter Thursday's final on the back of three back-to-back victories.Ireland started Qualifier A with an 18-run loss to the UAE, but found form quickly to ensure they booked a seventh consecutive appearance at the T20 World Cup."I think our determination got us there (berth in T20 World Cup)," Ireland captain Andy McBrine said after the win."We knew at the start of the week we needed to win three games, and we've got better every match and that's what you need to do in tournament cricket. Our T20 cricket has been inconsistent, and to win three matches in a row we knew we'd have to be at our best we managed to do that, and that was probably our best all-round performance," he said.