With nuggety wicketkeeper Gary Wilson for company, the big-hitting Kevin O'Brien set right the mess he had left Ireland in with some ordinary plans and bowling at the death. Despite their blitz, Ireland didn't finish the match easy. UAE kept scrapping, and by the time it ended Ireland had only two wickets in hand and four balls to spare.
Thanks to the first World Cup and second ODI hundred for UAE, 106 off 83 by Shaiman Anwar, and a World Cup-record seventh-wicket partnership between Anwar and Amjad Javed - 107 in 11.5 overs - UAE recovered from 131 for 6 in the 35th over. They defended with passion and precision to have Ireland down at 97 for 4 and 171 for 5, but they wilted in the face of the onslaught from O'Brien and Wilson, dropping catches, misfielding, some of them walking off with cramps.
It was an important match for Ireland to win. In the last World Cup, they had beaten England but lost to Bangladesh, thus losing out on a quarter-final spot. Having conceded 147 in the last 15 overs, a repeat of their poor death bowling against West Indies who recovered from 87 for 5 to post 300-plus, Ireland were staring at similar fate with their top order struggling for fluency, but their lower middle order and the famed luck of the Irish rescued them.
O'Brien joined Wilson with 108 required off 68 balls and Wilson on 43 off 46, the only batsman remotely near a run a ball for Ireland. The first ball O'Brien faced he muscled it to mid-off. The second he pulled away for four. Business was about to pick up. You could see UAE were feeling the heat already. There had been literal heat too: they had lost their opening bowler Manjula Guruge to what looked like cramps. Others were falling too.
Mohammad Tauqir, the 43-year-old captain who had bowled beautifully with dip and drift for the wickets of William Porterfield and the other O'Brien, Niall, walked off in the 43rd over. Kevin O'Brien and Wilson had added 36 by then, but were yet to steal the game. O'Brien now lofted down the ground, and the substitute fielder, Nasir Aziz, managed just a parry for four over him. Before that too, Ireland had enjoyed a bit of luck. Ed Joyce added 16 after being bowled by Javed. Except the heavy LED bail just came off, lit, and went back into its groove.
This drop of O'Brien was to prove costlier as he went on to demoralise the attack in his 25-ball 50. He hit eight fours and two sixes, but everything bowled to him was a candidate for being hit. By the time he fell to a slower ball from Javed, the equation had come down to 36 off 32. John Mooney can bat a bit, but he was struggling, which made Wilson's role more important. He stayed calm except for one moment in the 47th over. With 21 required off 20, he went down on a knee to look to ramp Javed and missed. He was given not out presumably because he had got outside the line as is the case with such lbw appeals but the replays showed the ball had nipped back enough to hit him in front of off. Just when you thought UAE were going to get lucky, the replay also showed the ball to be only clipping the top of the stumps.
Wilson then saw the struggling Mooney end his innings poorly, but seemed to have ended the game with back-to-back drilled boundaries down the ground in the 48th over. Javed, though, was not giving up yet. As Wilson looked to run the next, a shortish delivery, down to third man, Javed showed fearlessness by diving forward from short third man and sending Wilson back for 80 off 69. Twelve runs remained. Fifteen balls. And two wickets.
Crucial runs with Anwar, hitting the stumps without removing the bail, taking three timely wickets and now this brave catch, Javed didn't deserve to be on the losing side. It was down to him in the 49th over, with 10 runs to get. He began with two immaculate dots. The third one was a yorker dug out into the leg side, but Ireland stole a second with the fielder running in from the deep letting the infielder chase the ball, which goes against the norm. The game was still tight, but George Dockrell opened it up with a calculated loft over mid-off to make it three off seven.
Javed was at the centre of every comeback UAE made. He was with Anwar when the two added 107 for the seventh wicket to expose Ireland's ordinary death bowling again. O'Brien was the main culprit bowling short and wide with his off-side fielders in the ring. Anwar looked like Kamran Akmal in his relaxed stance, and the way he shaped up when playing his preferred shots square either side of the pitch, and took full toll of the poor bowling.
Javed, who had played an important part in their score of 285 against Zimbabwe, kept bringing the big hits in. He didn't get either of the new balls, with Guruge removing Paul Stirling - whose unbroken spell of 10-0-27-2 had handcuffed UAE - early. Javed should have had Joyce out on 21, but persisted long enough to send him back on 37. A rollercoaster followed, but Ireland's experience prevailed in the end, with both the sides left looking back ruefully at their muddled bowling plans when put under pressure.