The United Arab Emirates challenged the International Cricket Council to ensure more top-flight matches for associate nations after narrowly losing to Zimbabwe in their World Cup clash Thursday.
“The more we play at the highest level the more we can improve our cricket,” UAE captain Mohammad Tauqir said after Zimbabwe snatched victory in the Pool B clash.
Zimbabwe, a Test-playing nation, scraped home by four wickets with just 12 balls to spare after the amateurs from the UAE had posted 285-7 on the flat Saxton Oval wicket in Nelson.
It was the highest ODI score by a UAE side but it was not quite enough for Tauqir.
“Another 25-30 runs it would have been a different result,” he said.
It was a game Zimbabwe should have won comfortably with their wealth of international experience and after putting up a credible showing when losing their opening tournament match to South Africa.
Instead they were made to fight all the way by a gritty UAE side with victory eventually set up by an 83-run stand for the sixth wicket by Sean Williams (76 not out) and Craig Ervine (42).
It was Williams’ man of the match performance that made the difference, according to Tauqir
“If we had taken that wicket earlier it would have been different,” he said.
“We had quite a few positives from the game. The batters batted well and the bowlers did a decent job, but it was definitely an opportunity missed,” he said.
“It was a good game of cricket, it went to the wire and they won.”
But Tauqir said his part-time cricketers, who are mostly expats from India and Pakistan living in the United Arab Emirates, would be more a more potent force if given more opportunities.
The ICC will reduce the number of teams at its showpiece ODI tournament from 14 to 10 in the future which would make it more difficult for sides like UAE and Ireland to qualify.
Ireland have already shown their ability to compete with the Test playing nations by beating the West Indies earlier in the week to go with the scalps of England and Pakistan in previous World Cups.
“The more opportunity given to the associate nations to play with the bigger teams it’s an improvement for their game,” Tauqir said.
“When you play against them you get good exposure. It’s good for the improvement of the game at associate level. If we play only at associate level we cannot improve the game.”
The 15 UAE players have a combined total of just 71 ODI caps between them with the side making a World Cup comeback 19 years after their one and only previous appearance in 1996.