Zimbabwe looking to build on SA showing
Elton Chigumbura, the Zimbabwe captain, has said his men will enter their match against UAE in Nelson with some confidence after their encouraging performance against South Africa. However, Chigumbura said Zimbabwe would not make the mistake of under-estimating UAE, who are playing in their first World Cup game since 1996.
Zimbabwe's tournament began in fine style as they reduced South Africa to 83 for 4 in Hamilton on Sunday, and even later in the innings when the score was 228 for 4 after 44 overs Zimbabwe were still well in contention. Then came a remarkable finish in which JP Duminy and David Miller mauled Zimbabwe's seamers and took 111 from the final six overs.
Set 340 for victory, Zimbabwe's top order performed admirably and while the required run-rate was ultimately too great a challenge, they reached 277 before being bowled out in the 49th over. Given South Africa are among the strongest favourites to win the tournament, Chigumbura said the feeling in the Zimbabwe camp after the game was a mixture of positives and negatives.
"It was a bit of both, a confidence boost the way we played, and obviously it's always disappointing to play the way we did for 90 overs but we didn't manage to finish off the last ten overs," Chigumbura said. "We took a lot out of the game we played and hopefully we can carry on with that form."
One of Zimbabwe's key men in this tournament will be Hamilton Masakadza, whose 80 from 74 balls against South Africa followed an unbeaten 117 in the warm-up win over Sri Lanka in Lincoln. However, there were other contributions in the South Africa game - Chamu Chibhabha made 64 and Brendan Taylor scored 40 - and Chigumbura said it was important the batting workload was spread.
"He's leading from the front as a senior batter in the team and it's rubbing off to the rest of the players," Chigumbura said of Masakadza. "The good thing about the team at the moment, everyone is in good nick. We don't expect just Hamilton to put up a good performance, the rest of the guys in the squad are capable of doing the same job."
One of the challenges for Zimbabwe in this game will be their lack of familiarity with their opponents. The two teams have never before met in an ODI - they did play a T20 international last year - and Ireland's win over West Indies at this same ground, Saxton Oval, on Monday, was a reminder of what the Associates can do.
"Every team we're going to play we have to respect them and play the hard cricket we are capable of playing," Chigumbura said. "The thing about cricket is a good ball is a good ball. You just have to try and do the basics right. There's one or two guys we know, but we have to go back to basics because the majority of the players we don't know.
"Every team is capable of winning games, so at the end of the day we have to take every game seriously and do the basics right, and make sure that when you get into a good winning position you are ruthless and win the game."
The small ground provided 300-plus totals in the Ireland win over West Indies and the UAE captain Mohammad Tauqir said he was hopeful his men would be capable of posting a similar score. He said it was encouraging to see the success of Ireland against a Full Member nation, and the UAE was hoping to provide a similar surprise.
"We had a couple of games in New Zealand also and two warm-up games in Australia," Tauqir said. "Except for the Australia game, the rest of the games we have scored around 300 runs, so the batting is good and strong.
"I think it's a great win for Ireland. I think most of the Associate nations are doing well and we would like to prove a point also ... every individual in the team is on target for goals. Collectively we are looking forward to at least having a couple of wins against Test nations, that's what we are targeting."
Tauqir, who is a rarity in UAE cricket as an Emirati and Dubai native, said he was also hopeful that the country's first World Cup campaign since 1996 would lead to a boost in support for cricket among UAE citizens.
"Predominantly it's an expat game in the UAE, a lot of Asian, English and Australian people play there," Tauqir said. "But I believe our participation in the World Cup would inspire many more Emirati and UAE nationals to follow the game with passion."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale