Rameez Shahzad's century for the national team led the reply, but the Caribbean side's total proved too big to chase down in Harare.
UAE send out message to World Cup Qualifier rivals despite defeat to West Indies
To West Indies, victory, the points, and the ideal start to the World Cup Qualifier. To Rameez Shahzad, respect.
The most celebrated side currently in Zimbabwe started their first ever qualifying campaign for a competition they have twice won in the style that many might have predicted.
Dougie Brown, the UAE coach, said the West Indies batsmen in particular had “bullied” his side in their a 60-run win over the UAE in Harare.
The national team’s reply, led by a classy unbeaten century by Rameez, sent out a message that they will be pushovers for no-one in this event, though.
West Indies’ past and future combined to create an impressive present with the bat. Chris Gayle’s achievements in the game have been well chronicled. The fact the 38-year-old opener is back and motivated is a massive boon for the Caribbean side at this competition.
The UAE had dismissed him cheaply in the warm-up match between the sides last week. Perhaps it was unwise to make him angry.
Gayle provided a brutal display of six-hitting which might have left the neighbours in this leafy suburb just to the north of Harare’s centre cowering.
He hit 11 sixes in all. It was debatable which was the biggest: either a straight drive off Mohammed Naveed’s pace that ended on the 22-metre line of the neighbouring rugby field, or one off Rohan Mustafa’s off-spin that sailed through the top branches of one of the largest trees at the other end.
Gayle’s innings of 123 from 91 balls felt like the exhibition everyone had come to see. And yet maybe that missed the point. Perhaps it was all about the emergence of a new gem instead.
Shimron Hetmyer, 21, made 127 from 93 balls, which works out as a better strike-rate than his illustrious colleague managed. Big things are expected of the young left-hander, who was the captain when West Indies won the Under 19 World Cup in Bangladesh two years ago.
The groundstaff at Old Hararians like to suggest that theirs is the best batting strip in Zimbabwe, as a consequence of a different type of clay used in the soil for the wicket to elsewhere.
As such, when the UAE went out to bat with a mammoth task ahead in hauling in 358 to win, at least the pitch held no demons. Such a hefty chase was always going to be a tough ask, but the UAE batsmen played with great pluck.
The second scoring shot off the bat was a six lasered over extra cover by Mustafa off the bowling of Kemar Roach, a fast-bowler who has a World Cup hat-trick to his name.
Chirag Suri, making his debut in the competition as a replacement for injured opener Ashfaq Ahmed, was struck on the shoulder by a Sheldon Cottrell bouncer.
But he, too, looked otherwise untroubled until he was caught behind for 38, the second of the five wickets that captain Jason Holder ended up with for West Indies.
The central feature of the national team’s innings was a sparkling 144-run stand between Rameez and Shaiman Anwar. They were forgivably watchful at first, but by the end they were going the full Chris Gayle on the West Indies bowlers.
Anwar reached 64 in 62 balls, and Rameez said they felt victory was still on when they were together.
“The first plan was to win the game, but in the middle overs they bowled really well,” said Rameez, who ended unbeaten on 112. “Our plan by the end was, even if we can’t win the game, we had to get as close as possible. I think we did really well.
“I think if Shaiman had kept on, there was a chance. In 14 overs, we needed 10 an over, but once he was out, we made a few changes to our plan, and I think we did really well, playing against a Test nation.”