WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND: Even the UAE players would admit to the massive difference in class between them and the Test-playing nations, but their match on Thursday against South Africa was yet another indication that they are moving in the right direction.
At the Westpac Stadium in Wellington, the UAE put up a brave fight throughout the day before losing to the team which carries the tag of being the pre-tournament favourites by 146 runs.
The UAE won the toss and the fact that they put in South Africa to bat showed they weren’t afraid of their opponents, who took the West Indies and Ireland to the cleaners batting first, scoring totals of 411 and 408.
South Africa reached 341 for six in their 50 overs, a total that was made possible only by some lusty hitting from Farhaan Behardien, who smashed 64 runs in 31 balls and put together 49 runs in the last 20 balls.
South Africa captain AB de Villiers made 99 but for someone who has the ODI record for the fastest 50, 100 and 150, de Villiers needed 54 balls to reach his half century, and 82 balls for his entire knock in which he was dropped twice and there was a missed run-out chance.
When UAE batsmen came on, South Africa showed their ruthless streak with Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn under clear instruction to pitch it short and aim it towards the body. The scare tactics worked to a certain extent, and both Khurram Khan and Shaiman Anwar taking a couple of painful body blows. But that did not deter them from playing their shots, and they did very well to reach 195 for nine in 47.3 overs.
There was a lot of joy and flair in their batting, best exemplified by a massive 93-meter six that Mohammad Naveed struck off Steyn. It wasn’t as if Naveed was using Steyn’s speed, instead, it was hit stepping out and over long on, much to the dismay of the world’s most lethal fast bowler.
Fahad Al Hashmi, who was given a chance in the match replacing Manjula Guruge, twisted his knee while bowling his eighth over and could not bat.
Swapnil Patil, relieved of his duty as a wicket-keeper by Saqlain Haider, who was drafted instead of Rohan Mustafa by the UAE, top-scored with a fighting unbeaten 57.
Shaiman Anwar had another good outing. His effort of 39 took him to No5 in the list of batsmen with most runs this World Cup with 309 in five matches. That also makes him the highest run scorer among the Associate nations, 56 runs better than Scotland’s Kyle Coetzer (253).
The win ensured that South Africa will finish second in Pool B behind India. They now have eight points after playing all their six matches, a tally that none of the other five teams in the group can reach.
It also means that the final Group B tie between Pakistan and Ireland on March 15 in Adelaide is a virtual knock-out match.
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