When Mohammad Tauqir walked out for toss with Elton Chigumbura, the UAE captain created World Cup history even before the first ball was bowled. At 43 years and 32 days, Tauqir became the oldest captain in World Cup history. The previous record holder was Steve Lubbers of the Netherlands, who was 42 years and 347 days when he led his side in 1996 World Cup. Most UAE cricketers are middle-aged amateurs, who have their origins either in India or Pakistan. Much like members of Qatar’s handball team, these blokes have acquired UAE citizenship for an express purpose of forming a cricket team. Playing against pre-match favorites, Zimbabwe in a pool B match on February 19, 2015 at Nelson, UAE piled up their highest ODI score, ending up at 285/7. Afterwards they created a panic situation for the Africans, when they came on to bat next. Fortunately for Zimbabwe, Sean Williams and Craig Ervine put in valiant efforts to extract their team out of the woods and ended the ordeal with a 4-wicket victory. This was one match of the 2015 CWC that had been billed as the most low-key affair but it turned out to be an unexpected thriller in the end.
Elton Chigumbura decided to take the field after winning the toss against UAE in Thursday’s match no.8 at the Saxton Oval in Nelson. Chigumbura hoped for early wickets to justify his decision. But when Tendai Chatara found the edge of Andri Berenger’s bat in the second over, wicketkeeper Brendan Taylor muffed an easy chance. Berenger was yet to get off the mark then. He went on to score 22. In Chatara’s next over, Berenger edged again and this time Taylor made no mistake but the umpire wanted to check for no-ball and replays confirmed that Chatara had indeed overstepped. The first UAE wicket however, fell at 26 in the sixth over, when Amjad Ali was caught by Ervine off Chatara and finally Berenger got out too. At 40/2 in the 11th over, UAE didn’t look like mounting a great score. But that changed soon as successive batsmen stepped up the tempo of scoring. Though Krishna Chandran made a laborious 63-ball 34; other batsmen made up for him. Khurram Khan scored 45 off 55 balls, Swapnil Patil 32 off 38 and Shaiman Anwar 67 off 50. With tail-enders; Amjad Javed and Mohammad Naveed complimenting with 19-ball 25 and 17-ball 23 cameos; UAE ended their 50 overs on 285/7 at an impressive rate of 5.70.
When Zimbabwe came on to chase 286, openers Sikandar Raza and Regis Chakabva did well to put on 64 off 13 overs before Raza fell. Chakabva found difficult to get going as the dot-ball count from him kept rising. After Raza’s wicket, Hamilton Masakadza departed after facing just 4 balls. When Brendon Taylor arrived, Chakabva derived inspiration from him and began scoring at a faster rate. But he suffered from an unfortunate hit-wicket dismissal, when he tried to flick a short ball from Mohammad Tauqir to his left. However, he lost the balance and disturbed the wickets behind him to become the first batsman since another Zimbabwean Vusi Sibanda, who got out hit wicket in a 2007 World Cup match. Meanwhile, Taylor progressed well but he too fell soon. Zimbabwe sent Solomon Mire ahead of Craig Ervine but the experiment didn’t work as Mire lasted just 22 balls for his 9 runs. At 167/5 in the 33rd over, Zimbabwe looked in trouble.
But Sean Williams and Craig Ervine resolutely brought a turnaround at this stage. The duo started with aggressive running between wickets to ransack UAE fielding and then dealt some lofty blows in the power-play overs. At the end of 40 overs, Zimbabwe required 64 runs and that didn’t look so difficult with Williams and Ervine out there. Ervine finally fell after scoring 42 off 32, when Zimbabwe still required 36 for victory. But with Williams doing well, it looked easy. With Chigumbura for company, Williams completed the task with 12 balls remaining. His personal score was a near flawless 76 off 65 balls. Counted as low-key, the match finally out to be the first thriller of the 2015 World Cup.