Netherlands's last-gasp fight to stay alive in the Intercontinental Cup begins tomorrow with their latest match against the UAE in Sharjah.
Currently positioned fourth in the table on 34 points, Netherlands face a tall ask to stay in the race: they need to collect maximum points in their last remaining three matches if they're to reach the final. Not even a draw will suffice.
"There is no doubt that we need 60 points in the next three matches to reach the final and the countdown begins in Sharjah," Jeroen Smits, the Netherlands captain, said. "To win this match, we need 20 UAE wickets which will not be easy because of different conditions and the UAE will not be an easy opponent in its own backyard. But we have all that is required to win matches."
The situation is equally clear for UAE, though they don't share the same hopes of qualifying for the final. Languishing at second-to-bottom, tomorrow's game is their seventh and last of the tournament and they have only pride to play for.
"Prior to the start of the tournament, I never thought we would go into this match playing for nothing more than pride. But if we are in this situation, it is because we have not played to our full talent and potential," Saqib Ali, the UAE captain, said. "The team is disappointed to be in this situation but it will not stop us from playing hard cricket against the Netherlands. We will try to finish the tournament on a winning note and try to restore our battered pride and confidence.
"There have been some exceptionally good individual performances but we have not been able to put together a performance which could win us matches," Ali said. "Frankly speaking, our batters didn't put enough runs on the board to allow the bowlers attack the opposition. But we are keen to finish the tournament with a good collective effort."
Netherlands' prospects were dealt a blow, however, with the news that their legspinner, Mangesh Panchal, will miss out. Additionally, there is a doubt surrounding Pieter Seelaar's availability. He was hit in the face by a bouncer in the last match against Namibia. "He will confirm his availability before the toss on Thursday," Smits said, "but he took active part in the training sessions and I am confident that he will declare himself fit."
Netherlands (from): Jeroen Smits (capt), Peter Borren, Mudassar Bukhari, Daan van Bunge, Ryan ten Doeschate, Tom de Grooth, Maurits Jonkman, Muhammad Kashif, Alexei Kervezee, Geert Maarten Mol, Edgar Schiferli, Pieter Seelaar, Eric Szwarczynski, Bas Zuiderent.
UAE (from): Saqib Ali (capt), Arshad Ali, Khurram Khan, Mohammad Tauqir, Nizel Fernandes, Shadeep Silva, Fahad Alhashmi, Shoaib Sarwar, Alawi Shukri, Indika Batuwitaarachchi, Naeemuddin Aslam, Ahmed Raza, Muhammed Aman Ali, Amjad Ali, Rashid Khan, Salman Farooq, Abdul Rehman and Vikranath Shetty.