In its opening game, against Zimbabwe at the Saxton Oval in Nelson today, UAE has its best shot at fulfilling one of its stated goals.
“See, every individual in the team has his own target and goals. Collectively, we’re looking forward to at least having a couple of wins against Test nations. That’s what we’re targeting,” said Tauqir. While that may seem like a lofty ambition, the Zimbabwe match provides the best opportunity for UAE to make a dash for glory.
It is obvious that the manner in which the West Indies failed to establish its superiority over Ireland has emboldened Associate nations. “I think it was a great win for Ireland, and I think most of the Associate nations are doing well,” said Tauqir. “We would like to prove a point, also. We respect Zimbabwe’s side. It’s a good side. If we bowl first, we will try to restrict them, and if we bat first, we would like to put up a strong total.”
The setting at the Saxton Oval too promises to deliver excitement. The boundaries are short, and big hits, aided by a strong breeze, carry far, as the Ireland match proved. Early in the day, there will be some assistance for the fast bowlers, but once the sun has been out for a bit, the pitch becomes perfect for batting and the fast outfield ensures high value for shots if the batsman gets his placement right.
“If I look back, except for the Australia game, the rest of the three games we’ve scored around 300, so yeah, our batting is good, is strong. Wherever we see it’s 300-plus runs. We’re also expecting 300-plus in the Zimbabwe game,” said Tauqir, and this was the one point on which his opposite number, Elton Chigumbura, was in complete agreement.
Zimbabwe lost its first game of the tournament, to South Africa, but certainly did not disgrace itself. In pursuit of 340, Zimbabwe got to 277. “It was a confidence boost the way we played, and also it’s always disappointing to play the way we did for 90 overs, and we didn’t manage to finish off the last 10 overs,” said Chigumbura. “But we took a lot out of the game that we played, and hopefully we can carry on with that form.”
Hamilton Masakadza was in red-hot form in that game, making 80 off only 74 balls, and Chigumbura hoped others in the team would take a leaf out of his book. “He’s leading from the front. He’s a senior batter on the team, and it’s rubbing off to the rest of the players. The good thing about our team at the moment, everyone’s in good nick, so we don’t expect just Hamilton to put up a good performance,” he said.
“The rest of the guys in the squad are capable of doing the same job. Yeah, we’re looking forward to this next game. Every team that we’re going to play, we’ve to respect them and play the cricket that we’re capable of playing. The good thing about cricket is that it isn’t about whom you’re playing, a good ball is a good ball. We don’t know too much about the UAE team, so we’ve to just focus on sticking to our basics.”
While most international teams know each other well, it is in clashes like this one that there is an element of surprise.
UAE (likely): Amjad Ali, Andri Berenger, Krishna Chandran, Khurram Khan, Swapnil Patil (wk), Shaiman Anwar, Rohan Mustafa, Mohammad Naveed, Amjad Javed, Mohammad Tauqir (capt), Nasir Aziz.
Zimbabwe (likely): Chamu Chibhabha, Sikandar Raza, Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor (wk), Sean Williams, Craig Ervine, Elton Chigumbura (capt), Solomon Mire, Tinashe Panyangara, Tendai Chatara, Tafadzwa Kamungozi. – Starsports.com