A career-best 114 from Matthew Cross proved to be the difference as Scotland defeated the UAE by 73 runs in their World Cup Qualifier clash on Thursday.
The Saltires kicked off their Super Six campaign in style with a commanding win which puts them in a strong position to qualify for the final ahead of next year’s World Cup.
After winning the toss and choosing to bat, it was a welcome return to form for Scotland who have struggled to post big scores in the early stages of the tournament.
Cross in particular had been struggling, having failed to pass 18 in his four knocks so far, but was back in form as Scotland posted a mammoth 322 for six. UAE captain Rohan Mustafa was the stand-out bowler with figures of 4-56.
Kyle Coetzer made a breezy 43 before he was dismissed, but Cross combined with Calum MacLeod (78) for a 161-run stand for the second wicket to put Scotland in a strong position.
The two pressed the accelerator going into the final 10 overs as Scotland put on 121 in the final 11 overs, but it was Cross who anchored the innings brilliantly in his 135-ball knock, which included four sixes. Richie Berrington and Harry Munsey helped boost the total above the 300 mark.
With a big target to chase, the UAE made a positive start in reply but after reaching 62, they lose three wickets for two runs.
A superb seventh-wicket stand of 104 between Mohammad Usman (80) and Ahmed Raza (50) lent some respectability to the UAE’s run-chase, but it was not quite enough as they were bowled out for 249.
Chris Sole finished with four for 68 as Scotland eventually clinched the win to move to the top of the table following West Indies’ defeat to Afghanistan.
For the UAE, they will take on Afghanistan on March 20.
Brown represented Scotland between 2005 and 2007 during his playing days, and was a member of the squad that played in the World Cup in the Caribbean.
The 48-year-old says he has happy memories of his international career but will be focused solely on delivering a positive result for the UAE at Queen Sports Club in Zimbabwe on Thursday.
“Absolutely,” he said. “My team is the UAE and definitely not Scotland. We wish them all the very best but my primary focus is where our cricket is at and how many games we can win at this stage of the competition.
“They were some of the most memorable parts of my career,” he added. “We had some great times. We qualified through the ICC Trophy for the 2007 World Cup. We had a very successful time through the campaign until the World Cup in the Caribbean, it was a very experienced side who could compete against any side on their day.”
The UAE face a stern task of reaching their second-successive World Cup. With points gained against fellow qualifiers, his side start the Super Sixes with zero points.
But he can be encouraged they can get their first points on board against a side who they had already beaten in Dubai earlier this year.
“Realistically, World Cup qualification will be really difficult but we will keep a very open mind of where our cricket is at and try and see what we can achieve over the course of these three matches,” he said.
“Scotland have a never-say-die attitude, very much like the Irish. From our perspective, we really have to get into the game if we can early in the game, and stay in the game and make it really difficult for Scotland to show their character and attitude.”
A top Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) official has revealed the board plans to offer more central contacts to players after the UAE retained their ODI status.
Their national side reached the Super Six stage of the World Cup Qualifier despite losing by 226 runs to Ireland in their group game on Monday. But they still finished within the top three Associate sides between themselves, Scotland, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea and Nepal to maintain their ODI status.
The UAE’s success in the last 12 months where they have registered 50-over series wins against Netherlands, Oman and Papua New Guinea is largely down to having a team of professional cricketers. In July 2016, the ECB handed out contracts to 12 players for the first time in history.
With ODI status now sealed until 2022, the ECB will receive funding from the ICC. And Zayed Abbas, board member of ECB, says the country’s governing body will look to add to that number in the future.
“Of course, definitely,” he said. “There will be more players getting contracts. You just have to have the right players to offer them contracts. There are plenty of players who are willing to get a contract and we’re looking for the best of the best in the UAE.
“We don’t have a certain time frame (to hand contracts). You have to have the right player. It’s been a good year, we had good sponsorship deals and with this achievement, it’s really positive.”
The UAE clinched their ODI status with victories over Netherlands and Papua New Guinea in the World Cup Qualifier. Although their chances of reaching their third World Cup are slim with just the top two teams from the Super Six stage going through, Abbas believes retaining ODI status will help develop the game.
“It was our main objective to get ODI status,” he said. “We have four years to perform and test our capabilities. This is a great achievement and we were pretty confident and were able to do that. The team was performing professionally in the last three or four months and the results have been positive. With another four years to go, we will definitely show a different side to UAE cricket.”