Fresh from keeping their one-day international status this week, the UAE and Scotland will lock horns in their first Super Six match at the Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe on Thursday.
Both sides progressed from the group stage of the competition this week, keeping alive their 2019 World Cup hopes, but also ensuring an uninterrupted flow of funds from the International Cricket Council (ICC) needed to continue developing the game in their respective countries. The UAE collected two wins from four of their group games, while Scotland emerged victorious in three matches with one tied.
However, the Emirates will not take any points with them into the Super Sixes since their wins came against Papua New Guinea and the Netherlands, neither of whom made it out of the group stage. Compare this to Scotland, who keep three points – two from their win over Afghanistan and one after the tie against Zimbabwe – given that both qualified for the Sixes.
The remaining teams to progress include West Indies and Ireland, both of whom beat the UAE.
As things stand, West Indies are on four points, Zimbabwe level with Scotland on three, Ireland two and Afghanistan level with the UAE on zero. Given this scenario, and the fact that only two teams can qualify for next year’s tournament in England, the UAE will go into Thursday’s game in Bulawayo with a numerical disadvantage.
But Scotland are not taking any chances against Rohan Mustafa’s men, with captain Kyle Coetzer hoping to use the experience of having played in these conditions to their advantage.
“We know they [the UAE] are a dangerous and a tough team, and can’t be taken lightly," Coetzer told the ICC website. "Hopefully, we can use the advantage of already playing here in Bulawayo, so hopefully that can help us.
“Looking at the bigger picture of World Cup qualification is nice but can be a little bit dangerous. You can’t get there without doing the things leading up to it, but one game at a time is what we are looking at. This is important as we move to Harare as we have never played there before.”
UAE coach Dougie Brown, meanwhile, insisted his side deserved to be in the Super Six.
“Our top seven batters have brought some really good form and bowlers have, too," Brown, himself a Scotsman, said. "Despite Monday’s result [the UAE's 226-run loss to Ireland], I am really pleased where we are at the minute.
“The main priorities for Super Six and, in particular, the Scotland match is to start well," he pointed out. "They are a very buoyant side at the moment, they carry three points into the Super Sixes and they know qualification is in their hands, but we think we are two fairly evenly-matched teams and it is very much about who gets out the blocks the quickest.”
Indeed, the UAE have a strong team at their disposal.
Their recent successes – including a memorable outing at the World Cricket League Division 2 in Namibia last month – have been built on consistent bowling performances by seamers and spinners alike. They have also been backed by key batting highlights.
As ever, Mustafa will play a key role with both bat and ball. The opener scored 95 and took five wickets with his off-spin against PNG. Chirag Suri, Mustafa's opening partner, scored 78 not out under pressure against the Dutch and will be expected to carry on his good form.
One player Scotland will be wary of is Rameez Shahzad, with the middle-order batsman scoring his first ODI hundred the last time these two teams met in Dubai two months ago. The rest of the UAE's batting has been up and down, and they will need to rebound from their defeat to Ireland.
But with their immediate financial future secure, they are likely to play like they have nothing to lose and everything to gain – something Brown alluded to in the recent past.
"We as a team strongly believe we can qualify for the World Cup by rights," Brown told The National before the Qualifier got under way late last month. "Assuming the other teams start to look elsewhere, and take their eye off what they are doing day to day, it gives us a very, very good chance."