UAE v Zimbabwe, World Cup 2015, Group B, Nelson February 19, 2015

Williams, Ervine ruin UAE's spirited comeback

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Zimbabwe 286 for 6 (Williams 76, Taylor 47) beat UAE 285 for 7 (Anwar 67, Khurram 45, Chatara 3-42) by 4 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

It's often hard to tell between Sean Williams and Craig Ervine. Both are lean, tall, white, left-hand batsmen who bowl a bit of part-time spin. Even their faces have similar proportion. They are also two of the more sensible Zimbabwe batsmen, less likely to throw their wickets away than other batsmen who get to play as little top-level cricket as Zimbabwe batsmen and ones from other teams in the same category. Playing their first World Cup match in 19 years, UAE, a team primarily built of middle-aged amateurs, matched Zimbabwe blow for blow, registering their highest ODI score, taking regular wickets, fielding with energy until the left-hand twins came together with 119 required in 17.2 overs. Clinically and ruthlessly, the two broke the deadlock with a partnership of 83 off 62 balls to deny the World Cup its first real thriller, cruising home with two overs to spare.

This was expected to be the most low-key match of the World Cup so far, but turned out to be the closest yet. A lot of credit has to go to UAE, who are only remembered for their 1996 captain Sultan Zaravani going bareheaded to face Allan Donald and wearing one. Nineteen years later, a team more spirited and more suited to the challenge came back to the event although it didn't show at the start. It was only some good fortune that kept them from losing their openers with fewer than 40 on the board, but after that Khurram Khan and Shaiman Anwar made sure UAE didn't simply fold up.

The 43-year-old Khurram, UAE's talisman and an airplane purser in his life outside cricket, is older than their coach Aaqib Javed and one of the commentators at the match, Shaun Pollock. The 35-year-old Shaiman handles loads on cargo flights. Between them, they made sure this airport was in order through two 82-run stands. Khurram shepherded Krishna Chandran with a 55-ball 45 in the third-wicket association, and when the two followed each other to the pavilion Anwar dominated the fifth-wicket stand with wicketkeeper Swapnil Patil with 67 off 50.

Khurram broke the shackles UAE found themselves in with four fours in the first 14 balls he faced. Then he settled down. This was a flat pitch with a small outfield so Zimbabwe didn't look too concerned with runs at around four an over. With the Powerplay approaching, Elton Chigumbura went to his strike bowlers, and both produced wickets with the first ball back. Solomon Mire accounted for Chandran, Tendai Chatara took out Khurram.

Anwar and Patil made sure the Powerplay didn't go to waste, taking 48 runs without losing a wicket. Anwar didn't begin as smoothly as Khurram, reaching only 7 off 12, before getting stuck into the Powerplay bowling. Even though the two fell in quick succession, Mohammad Naveed and Amjad Javed added 53 off the last 5.5 overs to remind Zimbabwe of their horror finish against South Africa.

The two responsible for taking the target into the uncomfortable category then made it even more uncomfortable, conceding just 18 off the first six overs. Sikandar Raza then cut free with a flurry of boundaries but he felt the pressure with his opening partner Regis Chakabva piling up dots. Raza went to cut in Mohammad Tauqir's first over, and fell just short of a fifty. Hamilton Masakadza soon fell to Javed's swing and seam. Another partnership began to brew with Chakabva about to break free in the company of Brendan Taylor, but a freak dismissal brought UAE back.

As Chakabva went back to work a shortish offbreak to leg, his toe slipped under him and he disturbed the wicket to become the first man since Vusi Sibanda in 2007 - another Zimbabwe opener - to be out hit-wicket in a World Cup. Taylor threatened to take the game away, but he fell lbw to a natural variation from Nasir Aziz, an offbreak that didn't turn as much as expected. An experiment with promoting Mire didn't end well, and UAE would have fancied themselves just before the Powerplay began.

Now came the most assured period of play from Zimbabwe. Williams had already looked good in reaching 16 off 20 by the time Ervine joined him, and there was something reassuring about hoe he cover-drove the second ball he faced for three. The two began to run UAE ragged with aggressive running and calculated risks in the Powerplay. Ervine moved inside the line of Chandran's gentlepace and dropped him over square leg for six. Williams skipped to Aziz and lofted him straight for four. Ervine hit another leg-side six. Williams hit another four down the ground. Even before people learnt how to differentiate between the two, the ask had come down to 64 in the last 10 overs.

Ervine's wicket for 42 off 32, with 36 still required created some excitement, but Williams stayed unbeaten with 76 off 65 to see them through to their fourth-highest successful chase in ODIs.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Graham on February 21, 2015, 10:10 GMT

    Great for Zim after the years of troubles behind them ,

  • Selim on February 20, 2015, 15:19 GMT

    I thought the UAE posted a very competitive score in their 50 overs and Zimbabwe were made to work very hard to get those runs.

  • DANIEL on February 20, 2015, 14:12 GMT

    What is it with you Bangladeshi supporters? You feel the need to continuously insult Zim do you feel some sort of inferiority with Zimbabwe. Not great that Zim were pushed so close by UAE, but a win is a win. We have a heck of a lot more cricket history than yourselves and have been going through a rough patch over the past 18 months. We actually earned our Test status unlike yourselves who were given it on a plate for reasons that I will not mention. I am sure that once the problems have been solved you will see Zim winning against the stronger teams again, please note that I do not include yourselves in that group of teams. Quite frankly when I see you guys writing your comments I take great pleasure when I see your guys getting knocked over which does happen 90% of the time.

  • prem on February 20, 2015, 5:36 GMT

    I am from India. I like to see this quality Zimbabwe team to enter quarter final stage. They are playing well as an unit. All the best guys...

  • Bastion on February 20, 2015, 1:53 GMT

    @TheRisingTeam, true you beat Zim 8-0 when Zim were at a crisis point with off field issues (friction with their coach, poor selection and so on) but you surely can't suggest that BD are way in front? You lose to Ireland and struggled against Afghan bowling. You beat Afg but only because their batting is majorly inexperienced. Zim have played well and in the right spirits against some top teams recently. They beat us - Australia - in a match too and their fighting spirit has earned them a lot of respect from fans across the world. Forget Williams, how are your own players going against 'big teams'? An Indian B team not long ago beat you at home as I recall.

  • Dummy4 on February 20, 2015, 0:37 GMT

    @JAVIAR87 what point are you trying to make exactly ? Ireland Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are all struggling teams who are improving . Its good to see them all playing well . Also the favourite team in a match is always the one under pressure not to lose. If Ban and Ire are favourites against Zim thats fine , so it will be interesting if Zim wins those games

  • Shipu on February 20, 2015, 0:18 GMT

    Zimbabwe can't even thrash UAE? match was pretty much neck and neck and it clearly shows where Zimbabwe truly are at. Bangladesh thrashed Afghanistan by a massive 105 runs and before that 8-0 against Zimbabwe clearly shows that a massive gap is growing between them and the rest of the minnows...@NDURU...mate! that was against UAE. I want to see Williams perform like that against the big teams.

  • Dummy4 on February 19, 2015, 18:46 GMT

    Oh UAE hard luck. Glad my Zimbos beat U but u fought well guys. As ex loadmaster found another team to support as loadmaster in UAE team.

  • Dummy4 on February 19, 2015, 17:48 GMT

    I picked Williams as a dark horse in my fantasy league and he was such a value addition..loved his game...all the best to Zimbabwe!!

  • Jav on February 19, 2015, 17:47 GMT

    Wouldn't congratulate Zim as it was expected but not happy with the performance as you guys sweated to win this match against a ammeter side ! What a shame ! Look at Ireland or Bangladesh, they demolished their opponents with such authority !

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