UAE seal thrilling Qualifier victory to all but end Zimbabwe's World Cup hopes
Captain Mustafa insists the first win over a Test side a clear sign of the national team's progress
Rohan Mustafa believes the UAE’s three-run win over Zimbabwe at the World Cup Qualifier in Harare showed the improvement UAE cricket has made since going professional 18 months ago.
The tense win at Harare Sports Club was the national team’s first win over a side from cricket’s Test sphere in 24 years and 19 matches of trying.
It also had significant ramifications for the tournament. UAE were already unable to take one of the two qualification places on offer at next year’s World Cup in England.
Defeat, though, means Zimbabwe are all but out of the running, too, unless Ireland and Afghanistan tie in the final Super Six fixture on Friday. An outright winner between those two teams will advance.
Rameez Shahzad got off his sickbed to top score with a classy half-century, before Mohammed Naveed led a courageous bowling effort from the UAE attack, as they restricted Zimbabwe to 227 for seven, four short of their rain-revised target.
Mustafa, the UAE captain, said the victory had been a validation for his team’s hard work.
“It is a great achievement by the guys,” Mustafa said. “It shows the world the UAE and Associates are doing better.
“We want to play good cricket, as we showed in the Asia Cup [T20, in 2016] as well. We played good cricket against Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
“The guys have good talent. Shaiman Anwar, Rameez, Naveed, they are very good talents, and they have shown that before. The guys are working very hard. The game is changing. I believe if we get more contracts, it will be very good for UAE cricket.”
Naveed had also hit a valuable 22 not out from 10 balls, before a storm brought a premature end to the national team’s effort, with three overs left. He then took three for 40 with the ball.
That included defending the 15 Zimbabwe required to win off the last over.
“My coach just said in our team meeting that if I bowled wicket to wicket, I would be successful,” Naveed said.
“There was not too much thinking needed. It was just about bowling wicket to wicket. For fast yorkers, reverse swing is very helpful.
“In the last match against Afghanistan I scored 45 runs off 20 balls, so I was very confident [when batting]. It was just about watching the ball and hitting.”
Zimbabwe had appeared well placed at 185 for four, in the 35th over before Sikandar Raza, who has been their outstanding player in the tournament, chipped Mustafa to Anwar on the long-leg boundary.
Graeme Cremer, the Zimababwe captain, rued a variety of dismissals at important moment in the chase.
“I suppose we just lost wickets at crucial periods, that was probably it,” Cremer said as the reason for defeat.
“We had some good partnerships chasing the score down, but players lost their wickets at crucial periods.
“Take nothing away from UAE. How they bowled and fielded was excellent.”
Updated: March 22, 2018 10:05 PM