The UAE national team left for South Africa on Sunday morning for an intense training camp ahead of their pre-World Cup qualifiers next month.
The side will compete in the ICC World Cricket League Division Two in Namibia from February 8-15 alongside the hosts, Canada, Kenya, Nepal and Oman from which the top two nations will qualify for the 2019 World Cup Qualifiers in March.
To ensure they are in the best possible shape for those fixtures, the UAE will spend time adjusting to conditions in Pretoria until early next week before moving to the Namibian capital Windhoek.
UAE captain Rohan Mustafa was part of the squad to fly from Dubai and believes the training camp is a huge boost for their preparations for what he described as an “important series”.
“The fact that we are going early for a training camp is very good news for us,” said the 29-year-old all-rounder.
“We experienced the last time we went to Namibia (for their tour in September) that it’s a place where it’s high altitude and adjusting to that and the conditions will be very important.
“For the new guys, it will be a great learning experience and for the whole team, it will help us be 100 per cent ready physically and mentally for the first game.”
Rameez Shahzad's unbeaten 121 guides UAE to four-wicket win against Scotland – Article – Sport360 https://t.co/392SzIF4Y2
— UAE Cricket Official (@EmiratesCricket) January 24, 2018
The players flew to South Africa not short of match preparation after playing Ireland, Afghanistan and Scotland in Dubai earlier this month. Their only victory against those nations came against Scotland in the ODI tri-series with No4 batsman Rameez Shahzad scoring an unbeaten 121 in the four-wicket triumph.
Mustafa insists those games were a great learning experience and is encouraged to see that the middle-order batsmen are also performing.
“The fact that the likes of Rameez Shahzad are scoring big is very positive for us,” added Mustafa. “It shows the top and middle-order batsman can perform and that is what we’ll need in the Division Two qualifiers.
“We have learnt a huge lot from these games as we hadn’t played since Christmas. We played some good games and were unlucky but losing and winning is part of the game.”
An unbeaten century from Rameez Shahzad saw UAE gain revenge on Scotland with a four-wicket win in Dubai.
The Saltires were edged out in a high-scoring encounter, with Shahzad finishing not out on 121 as he led the hosts to victory with five balls to spare.
But the victory was not enough to prevent UAE finishing bottom of the tri-nation series, which had already been won by Ireland.
Scotland had claimed a comfortable win over UAE on Sunday – their first of the series – and again opted to bat after winning the toss.
An experimental batting line-up fared well, with Kyle Coetzer making a brisk 75 and Richie Berrington a 95-ball 90.
George Munsey provided some late impetus with 47 as Scotland posted a daunting total of 299 for nine.
They appeared on course for victory after picking up two early wickets, but Ashfaq Ahmed (92) and Shahzad put on 125 for the third wicket to bring UAE back into the game.
Shahzad went from strength to strength, striking 10 boundaries and two sixes, and was ably supported by Adnan Mufti (38) before hitting the winning run off Scott Cameron at the start of the final over to secure a first win in the series for UAE.
Head coach Grant Bradburn told cricketscotland.com: “This series has been a tough challenge against quality opposition and so valuable in many ways.
“We have seen new players take opportunities to show they are very capable at this level. We have also spent valuable time developing plans and combinations for the World Cup qualifier in Zimbabwe.”
Centuries from captain William Porterfield and Andrew Balbirnie helped Ireland beat the UAE for the second time in three days in their Tri-Series match.
Ireland had beaten the same opponents by four wickets on Thursday, and were comprehensive victors by 67 runs in Dubai to make it back-to-back successes in the series, which also features Scotland.
Porterfield hit 139 from 147 balls at the top of the order, adding 201 for the second wicket with Balbirnie, who was out for 102 from 109 deliveries as Ireland posted 301 for five from their 50 overs.
Kevin O’Brien then took four for 41 as the hosts came up well short, eventually being bowled out for 234 despite Rameez Shahzad’s half-century.
Medium pacer Barry McCarthy took 2-49 while Andy McBrine finished with figures of 2-40.