After a memorable three-run win over Zimbabwe ended the host nation's 2019 World Cup dreams at last year's qualifying tournament, UAE entered the four-match ODI tour this week with hopes of replicating the feat across an entire series rather than just a one-off encounter.
That goal got off to a bumpy start on Wednesday in Harare as Zimbabwe crushed UAE by seven wickets in a one-sided match. UAE coach Dougie Brown gave credit to Zimbabwe's seam attack led by Kyle Jarvis and Man-of-the-Match Tendai Chatara for exploiting bowler-friendly conditions after UAE lost a crucial toss.
"We lost the toss and got sent in on a pitch that had been covered after having heavy rain only yesterday," Brown told ESPNcricinfo after the match. "So it was really juicy, really moist bowling conditions. They bowled exceptionally well to be honest. The ball seamed and it bounced. When the spinners bowled, it spun as well, but it stuck and it made scoring really difficult.
"That said, we've still got to find a way if we do lose the toss to try and post a total that's defendable. 200 may be defendable, but when you get bowled out for 110, you're always against it."
While UAE's lower order battled to stretch the innings out into the 45th over after they had been reduced to 42 for 6 in 23 overs, their final score of 110 wasn't remotely competitive as Zimbabwe cruised to the target in just 23.1 overs. Brown said that although his bowlers showed heart, conditions had changed dramatically by the time Zimbabwe came out to bat.
"You need early wickets," Brown said. "We didn't quite get them although we bowled really well. But the pitch certainly changed over the course of the day with the sun out."
Brown said he hopes that with two matches now under their belt, including a warm-up victory over a Zimbabwe Chairman's XI prior to the first ODI, he believes UAE will soak up the lessons learned in foreign conditions to put in a stronger showing in the second ODI on Friday.
"It's a four-match series and we'll bounce back strong," Brown said. "Hopefully we'll start to address what didn't quite go right today and make some plans and try to put them in place for the game on Friday."