UAE were brought crashing back to reality after losing to Oman in the Cricket World Cup League 2 at the ICC Academy in Dubai.
In their first engagement since sealing qualification for the T20 World Cup in fine style in Muscat last week, they lost out by 12 runs in the first one-day international.
The national team appeared well set after they restricted Oman to 225 for seven from their 50 overs.
But they fell short in the face of probing pace bowling from Bilal Khan, who took five wickets, and Kaleemullah, who went for just 17 from his 10 overs, while picking up two wickets.
The margin of defeat was only as narrow as it was thanks to a 41-run stand for the last wicket between captain Ahmed Raza and No 11 batter Zahoor Khan.
“This is how cricket is – it’s a great leveller,” Raza said. “We were flying high, but we did have an honest chat before this series in which we pointed out we haven’t won the World Cup, and we haven’t done anything in 50-over cricket.
“We only have 25 [Cricket World Cup League 2] games to get ourselves into the World Cup Qualifiers. We don’t want to get behind the eight ball in that.”
Raza was disappointed by the home batting line up’s failure to chase a target that appeared eminently gettable on a docile wicket.
“I think it was down to a lack of intent,” he said. “It is alright to strike at 60 [per hundred balls] but then you can’t get out. You have to take the team home.
“One big thing that we have spoken a lot about in the past is that losing wickets in clusters is a crime. It allows your opponent to come back into the game.
“When you have a required run-rate of 4.5, it shouldn’t be going out to seven or eight at any stage, on a very, very good cricket wicket.”
For Oman, the win avenged two defeats suffered on home soil against the same opposition last month. The have also had to come to terms with missing out on reaching the T20 World Cup.
They face Namibia in the next game of the tri-series on Sunday, looking to extend their lead at the top of the table.
Whether they will have the services of their captain, Zeeshan Maqsood, for that game is doubtful.
Maqsood sustained a groin injury while batting against UAE and hobbled through much of his side’s fielding effort.
Injury notwithstanding, Maqsood was delighted with the way his side bounced back from their recent disappointments.
“We didn’t play good cricket at that time,” Maqsood said of his side’s failure to make it through the T20 World Cup Qualifier.
“We have many more matches to play and we have to perform better to win, because UAE and Namibia have good players and they are not going to give you easy wins.
“Today’s game is a big booster for us. In the last few weeks we didn’t perform well, but cricket doesn’t end. We have to look forward, play well and perform for the team and for the country.”