In a match where the greatest interest was always going to be the performance of Australian captain Michael Clarke, UAE found out how massive the difference was in playing associate cricket and competing at the highest level.
In losing their opening warm-up match of the Cricket World Cup to a first-eleven Australian side by a crushing margin of 188 runs, UAE may not have disgraced themselves, but they surely need to take all the learnings and implement it in their gameplan when they take on Zimbabwe in the first match of the tournament on February 19.
At the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday, the visitors did very well to restrict Australia to 304-8 in their 50 overs – a splendid effort considering the home side racked up 371 the other day against defending World Cup champions India.
However, it was the batting that left lot to desire. Only four batsmen got into double figures, and a majority of them perished while trying to attempt big shots. What was clearly lacking was an effort to rotate the strike, something that helps ease the pressure on batsmen on both ends.
In the end, the UAE were bowled out for 116 in 30.1 overs. Wicketkeeper-batsman Swapnil Patil was the top-scorer with 31 runs, while Amjad Ali looked good on the top while he lasted, before departing on 21 with a nothing slog.
Australian opener Aaron Finch, who made a typical swashbuckling 61, was clearly impressed with UAE’s effort, especially their bowling and fielding.
“They were excellent. They had some very skillful players and I think everyone saw that throughout our batting innings, we never really got away too much,” said Finch.
— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) February 11, 2015
“To make 304 was probably par on that ground, where it is hard to defend against twos and threes. They had some really talented bowlers and all their spinners bowled well and chipped in with wickets, and they took wickets consistently.
“I think they have got a bright future and for them to come from and to be a part of the World Cup is a huge credit to them. Who knows, they might shake a few feathers in the next few days.”
Australia gave no quarters to the UAE batsmen and they pushed hard, whether it be with aggressive bowling, or with their ultra-impressive fielding. Pat Cummins was the pick of the bowlers with his figures of 2-21, but what made the visitors look worse was the number of stunning catches Australian fielders plucked out of nowhere.
That included three sharp efforts by Shane Watson in the first slip, none more spectacular than the left-handed catch he held on to diving to his left and back to dismiss Mohammed Naveed. Glenn Maxwell added another to his list of outstanding catches when he ran and then dived forward to dismiss the dangerous looking Shaiman Anwar for 19.
However, this match was all about Clarke, and he gave a splendid account of himself. It was a statement of intent from him when after winning the toss, he walked out with Finch to open the batting. Not only did he outscore the flamboyant Finch for most part of the innings, but also ran hard between the wickets. On one occasion, the batsmen ran four runs, followed by a quick single of the next delivery.
Clarke top-scored for Australia with 64 runs (61 balls, 8×4) and added 123 runs for the opening partnership in 19.3 overs, at which stage it looked like the hosts will set up a target of 350-plus.
But off-spinner Nasir Aziz checked their rapid progress with three wickets (3-56), and Krishna Karate came back well after giving 31 runs in his first four overs to finish with 3-50 in nine overs.
UAE’s next warm-up match is against Afghanistan, which will be played at the Junction Oval in Melbourne on Thursday.
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