Craig Wright can lead Scotland into the final with a win over UAE © AFP
Scotland face UAE in Sharjah from Thursday knowing that it is the start of a crucial time for the team. The national side has embarked on perhaps its busiest and highest profile period in their history.

Having played an ODI series in Bangladesh at the tail-end of last year, the squad is preparing for an ODI tri-series in Mombasa, the inaugural World Cricket League in Nairobi, the World Cup in West Indies and then the ECB one-day Trophy against top county opposition from May 2007.

But now the team are focussed on the longer form of the game as it prepares for a crucial four-day Intercontinental Cup match at Sharjah Stadium. Victory for Craig Wright's team will secure Scotland's place in the final of this competition, which it won in 2004.

Scotland coach Peter Drinnen said: "I feel we have made good improvements recently and there is a lot of confidence. Our bowlers are hitting the right areas, our batsmen know what to do and are taking responsibility, and we also have a very good fielding side.

"This is the longest tour ever taken by a Scotland side and it is great to get the chance to play a consistently high quality of matches while also spending a long time together. We are hoping that it shows here over the next few days."

But there is plenty at stake from UAE's point of view, too. Despite losing outright to Namibia in Windhoek back in December, captain Arshad Ali knows that a win in Sharjah will put his side right back in contention, teeing up a winner-take-all clash with Ireland in Abu Dhabi on February 10.

"We have a lot to play for in this match," said Arshad. "Scotland is a very good team with plenty of experience but we will give it our very best over the next few days."

Apart from Scotland and UAE, the other sides in Group A are Namibia and defending champions Ireland. If the Scots win, they are through to the final but if they fail, it will open the door for Ireland to retain its title, setting up a group decider in Abu Dhabi next month.

UAE (from) Arshad Ali (capt), Khuram Khan, Saqib Ali, Kashif Khan, Naeemuddin Aslam, Rameez Shahzad, Gayan Silva, Ali Asad Abbas, Shadeep Silva, Awais Aftab, Qasim Zubair, Ahmed Nadeem, Mohammed Iqbal, Ahmed Raza.

Scotland (from) Craig Wright (capt), John Blain, Dougie Brown, Gavin Hamilton, Majid Haq, Paul Hoffmann, Dougie Lockhart, Ross Lyons, Neil McCallum, Dewald Nel, Glenn Rogers, Colin Smith, Ryan Watson, Fraser Watts.