Nineteen years after they made their debut on the grand stage, the UAE are out to regale the world with their exploits once again. It’s their second 50-over World Cup appearance and this time there seems a lot more purpose and structure in their effort with the team starting to resemble the professional outfit it is keen to become.
The UAE team begin their World Cup campaign in the early hours of tomorrow morning against Zimbabwe and it offers them a good opportunity to ease into the tournament and get their bearings right before they face bigger teams. But it won’t be easy.
Although on paper Zimbabwe don’t look as threatening as South Africa, India or Pakistan in Group B, they are making the big teams sweat it out. In the warm-up match against Sri Lanka, the Zimbabweans were in sizzling form as they restricted the former world champions to 279 and then chased down the runs with nearly five overs to spare and seven wickets in hand. And it wasn’t a flash in the pan.
"If Tauqir’s team minimise errors on the field, take the chances on offer and bat and bowl with a positive intent it will be half the battle won for them"
Against the Proteas on Sunday, they gave AB de Villiers and co. a mighty scare as they made a spirited attempt while chasing 340 and ended up scoring 277.
That they managed to take Dale Steyn for 64 runs from nine overs is an outstanding achievement, irrespective of how flat a wicket it was at Hamilton.
The UAE will have to come up with a plan to contain strong Zimbabwe batting.
The likes of Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor are top class batsmen and if they get going, Mohammad Tauqir’s boys will fall behind quickly.
Since Zimbabwe have proved to be excellent chasers, it won’t be a bad idea for the UAE to bowl first and chase whatever target the African side set. That way, the bowlers can make the most of any early moisture in the pitch.
Khurram Khan will once again shoulder the responsibility when it comes to batting and the 43-year-old will be desperate to make the most of this golden opportunity.
A World Cup match on a beautiful batting surface against a weak bowling attack doesn’t come by every day. However, he will need a good start from openers Andri Berenger and Amjad Ali.
When it comes to bowling, captain Tauqir will need to juggle his resources well and make the best use of Mohammad Naved’s overs with the new cherry as the ball can lose its sting pretty quickly in ODIs.
But more than the actual result, the UAE must look to get their processes correct in the game. The opposition will only get tougher from now on, as even Ireland are giving the big teams a lot to worry about after their win over the West Indies.
Victory against Zimbabwe will definitely be a boost but the UAE should concentrate on getting their basics right and let the result take care of itself.
If Tauqir’s team minimise errors on the field, take the chances on offer and bat and bowl with a positive intent, that will be half the battle won for them.
Don’t forget, this is still not a full-time professional cricket team. They have made it to the World Cup while squeezing all the training in between their daily schedule. And coach Aaqib Javed must be commended for taking the team this far. Who is to say they won’t exceed expectation and pull off a shock result or two? We wish them the best of luck.
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