UAE batting power surprises Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe admitted underestimating the United Arab Emirates after beating the cricket minnows with just 12 balls to spare in their World Cup match at Saxton Oval in Nelson on Thursday.
It was a match the Test-playing Zimbabwe should have won easily against the least experienced and only amateur side in the tournament.
Instead the game went down to the wire after the UAE posted their highest-ever one-day international score of 285 for seven after being sent into bat.
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It took Zimbabwe until the end of the 48th over to pull off a four-wicket win built on the back of an 83-run stand for the sixth wicket between Sean Williams (76 not out) and Craig Ervine (42).
"A lot of people would have thought Zimbabwe should have walked over UAE but that clearly wasn't the case," man-of-the-match Williams said.
"We didn't know what to expect from them and they put up a really good performance with the bat and our fielding wasn't that great."
Williams said Zimbabwe misread the UAE after watching videos of their previous games, which led them to believe the Middle East nation's batting was brittle.
"We were basically waiting for them to get themselves out but that wasn't the case," he conceded.
"They actually hit the ball really well down the ground and they hit the ball long."
Zimbabwe now have one win from two matches after losing their tournament opener to South Africa by 62 runs when they collapsed chasing a target of 340
Their pursuit against the UAE began sedately before wickets started falling at regularly intervals and Williams admitted the tension was getting to him when Zimbabwe were in the shaky position of 167 for five in the 33rd over.
"I could feel it out there," he said. "I tried not to show it. I tried to breathe, relax and hit the ball down the ground and stick to what we'd been (doing in) training and it ended up paying off."
But the left-handed batsman, who has a deft reverse-sweep in his armoury, said the gap between associate or junior nations such as the UAE and Test-playing countries was closing.
"Any cricket team on the day, if they get all three departments (batting, bowling and fielding) right, will take a top team right to the end," he said.
"UAE are obviously still learning and so are we. They batted really well. I guess they just need to learn when the key moments are in a game, the same as Zimbabwe.
"We are still learning, trying to understand when key moments are and when to put the foot on the gas."
Zimbabwe's next game is against the West Indies on Tuesday in Canberra and UAE play Ireland the following day in Brisbane.
Ireland, who like the UAE are an associate nation, defeated the West Indies by four wickets in their opening fixture of the tournament.
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