UAE banking on Irish inspiration
Cricket`s part-timers from the United Arab Emirates have drawn inspiration from Ireland as they prepare to confront Zimbabwe in their opening World Cup match in Nelson on Thursday.
Just as Ireland stunned the West Indies with a four-wicket win on the same Saxton Oval wicket on Monday, the lowly-ranked UAE side have dared to dream that they too are capable of an upset.
"It was a great win for Ireland. Most of the associate nations are doing well and we would like to prove a point also," UAE skipper Mohammad Tauqir, an investment banker by profession, said Wednesday.
"Every individual in the team has his own target and goals and collectively we are looking forward to at least getting a couple of wins against Test nations. That`s what we`re targeting."
But the odds are considerably higher for UAE against Zimbabwe than they were for Ireland against the West Indies.
Zimbabwe showed their credentials by posting 277 in their opening Pool B match against the highly-vaunted South African bowling attack after being set a target of 339.
The UAE weekend amateurs are the least experienced side in the competition where even Ireland, while also not full members of the International Cricket Council, have most of their players hardened by exposure to English county cricket.
That experience showed as Ireland chased down a 304-run target with 25 balls to spare and with the UAE squad keen spectators at the way they handled the conditions.
"It`s a good ground, a good batting wicket. We`re also expecting 300-plus," 43-year-old Tauqir said, which if achieved would be a record for UAE whose highest listed score is 282-4 against Afghanistan last November.
That total was built around an unbeaten 132 by Khurram Khan which is the only ODI century by a UAE player.
Khurram, by day an airline flight purser, has also scored five half centuries in his last six List-A games leading into the World Cup.
UAE were the 14th and last team to qualify for this World Cup. Their only previous exposure to cricket`s premier ODI tournament was in 1996 where their solitary victory was a seven-wicket win over the Netherlands to avoid finishing bottom of their pool.