Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town
Scotland 322 for 6 (Cross 114, Macleod 78, Mustafa 4-56) beat UAE 249 (Usman 80, Raza 50, Sole 4-68) by 73 runs
Scotland continued their unbeaten run in the World Cup qualifiers with a 75-run win over UAE in their Super Six match at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo. Opting to bat first, Scotland racked up an imposing 322 for 6, their fourth-highest total in ODIs, with Matthew Cross contributing a career-best 114. Cross' effort was backed up by 78 from Calum MacLeod, with whom he shared a 161-run stand for the second wicket. Scotland then bowled UAE out for 249 in the 48th over, with seamer Chris Sole taking 4 for 68.
It was Cross' opening partner, Scotland captain Kyle Coetzer, who led the early charge for Scotland, as he has done more often than not in this competition. He took 16 runs off medium-pacer Zahoor Khan's second over, and he had raced into the 40s at better than a run a ball when he chipped a simple return catch to Imran Haider in the legspinner's first over.
That wicket snapped the opening stand at 68, but there was no relief for UAE as it only brought Cross and MacLeod together. Initially, the pair focussed on risk-free batting and subsisted almost entirely on singles pushed in the 'V' down the ground. UAE captain Rohan Mustafa cycled through four spinners as he spread the field, and although that allowed UAE some measure of containment, it also meant that a single to turn the strike over was never far away.
No boundaries were hit between the 11th and the 29th over, but the quick start and the availability of singles meant Scotland were still able to tick along at four an over. After Cross reached an 89-ball fifty, MacLeod broke free of the spin stranglehold with three fours in an over from Haider.
Taking his cue, Cross also began to accelerate. Shaiman Anwar's part-time legspin was dispatched over wide long-on, and Cross added a second six off Zahoor, slugging the bowler straight back over his head. Cross's third six came from a slog sweep, the ball landing in the trees beyond midwicket, while MacLeod too passed fifty, the pair taking 19 runs from Haider's last over to ruin his figures.
UAE finally had some relief when MacLeod, looking to scoop the ball up and over fine leg, moved too far across and had his stumps rearranged by Zahoor. But the respite was not to last long. Cross reached a 125-ball hundred in the 42nd over - his second in ODIs, and his second against UAE after his maiden ODI ton against them in January. After he was gone, just failing to get his bat down on time as Mustafa fired in a quick arm-ball, George Munsey cracked four fours and one towering six over square leg in a 14-ball 30. Richie Berrington, who became the most capped player in Scottish cricket history, contributed a quickfire unbeaten 37 that included a six that landed on the roof of the stands beyond midwicket to boost the score beyond 300.
UAE's record chase in ODIs is 300, scored against Scotland in January, and their openers set about the chase as if they were determined to set a new landmark. Mustafa and Ashfaq Ahmed were particularly severe on anything short. Ashfaq rushed into the 20s with a pull for six that went in front of square, while Mustafa took 16 runs from Chris Sole's first over, including a remarkable swipe at a short ball that flew high and straight back over the bowler's head for six.
But Sole, playing his first match of the tournament after missing the group stage with a hamstring injury, soon had his revenge as Mustafa picked out Michael Leask at long-off with one big shot too many. For UAE, 62 for 0 quickly became 64 for 3, and where the short ball had brought runs, it now brought wickets. Ashfaq pulled Sole tamely to Craig Wallace at square leg while Chirag Suri, rushed for pace, gloved a short one to be caught behind for a duck. Before their chase had reached the 20-over mark, six of UAE's batsmen had been dismissed, and the match seemed a foregone conclusion.
Mohammad Usman and Ahmed Raza at least ensured that they went down fighting, with Usman particularly confident on the attack. Both players reached career-best scores, Usman registering his second ODI fifty and moving on to 80 before he toe-ended an attempted paddle scoop off Sole to give him his fourth wicket. Raza then reached a maiden ODI fifty of his own, but was trapped lbw by Brad Wheal immediately afterwards, and UAE quickly folded.
"Very pleased for the guys, and very pleased for everyone back home who has contributed to get us to where we are at the moment," said Scotland captain Coetzer. "We've enjoyed this performance, as we have every one thus far.
"Still not quite that full performance we're looking for, but we're getting there. The batting was hugely exciting today."
The win means Scotland now top the Super Six tables with five points. Their next match is against Ireland on Sunday at Harare Sports Club.
United Arab Emirates
Scotland vs U.A.E.
Cricket WC Qualifier