A career-best performance by UAE youngster Vriitya Aravind steered his side to an 18-run win over Ireland on the opening day of the T20 WCQ in Muscat.

For UAE, the stars of their 18-run win over Ireland were the team’s young pair – 19-year-old Aravind and 21-year-old Karthik Meiyappan.

Aravind missed a deserving maiden century by just three runs, staying unbeaten on 97 off 67 balls in his team’s total of 157. His well-timed innings comprised 13 boundaries and a six while Meiyappan picked three for 16 in his three-over spell as Ireland were restricted to 139 for nine.

Chasing a target of 158, Ireland openers Paul Stirling and skipper Andy Balbirnie made a cautious start to take their side to 50 for no loss at the end of power play overs.

Meiyappan struck in the very first ball of his spell as he had Stirling caught by Muhammad Waseem in the deep for 32. Balbirnie left soon after and Gareth Delany was Meiyappan’s second wicket, who also accounted for Simi Singh to leave Ireland struggling at 66-4.

George Dockrell and Shane Getkate got off to starts but got out earlier in a bid to accelerate the run-rate as Ireland stuttered to 111-6 in 16 overs. Lorcan Tucker’s innings of 25 ended when he was caught by Basil Hameed off Zahoor Khan, who also had Craig Young leg before wicket. Ireland was restricted to 139 for nine with experienced Rohan Mustafa bagging two late wickets.

Earlier, 20-year-old Aravind displayed maturity beyond his age as he shouldered the responsibility of shepherding the team to a challenging target. Coming into bat with the team’s total reading 20-2, Aravind paced his innings in style. The wicketkeeper-batter tackled the middle overs with tact before launching an attack in the death overs.

The last five overs were the most productive for UAE as Aravind displayed his range of strokes and along with Zafar Farid (12) and fetched 63 valuable runs.

Ireland’s Craig Young’s last over cost him 14 and Mark Adair’s penultimate over of the innings went for 14 as Aravind hammered two successive boundaries. Joshua Little got the back of Farid off the second ball in the inning’s final over before Aravind launched a blitz with a six, followed by two back-to-back cuts behind square for boundaries as UAE finished at 157 for five.

Adair had claimed the wicket of opening batter Chirag Suri in the very first over to give Ireland a dream start. Aravind came in to join Muhammad Waseem and the duo took the score to 20 in four overs. Young broke the standoff the first ball of the fifth over when he removed Waseem. Unperturbed Aravind then counter-attacked Young as he hit two successive fours in the same over.

Aravind and Mustafa steadied the ship further as the scoring rate fell with the team able to score 58-2 at halfway stage. Simi Singh got the breakthrough Ireland wanted in the next over as he dismissed but Basil Hameed and Aravind got together to share a 34-run crucial stand. Hameed’s exit left Aravind and Farid to take the team to a total they could defend.

Ahmed Raza, Captain of UAE was pleased with the win. He said: “We had a good quadrangular series here and I am glad at the momentum we have right now. Vriitya played an amazing innings and glad to watch the team’s young members doing well. He and Karthik are just 19- and 21-year-olds.”

Ireland Captain, Andy Balbirnie said: “The three quick dismissals pushed us back and though the later order batsmen should have stayed longer, it didn’t happen. We now have to win the next two games and hopefully we will to reach semi-finals.”