Jonathan Figy said it was a dream come true after he scored the first Under-19 World Cup century by a UAE batsman.
The Abu Dhabi-raised left-hander made an unbeaten 102 to guide the national team to an eight-wicket win over Canada in the opening game of the tournament in South Africa.
He shared a stand worth 149 with captain Aryan Lakra, who added 66 to the two wickets he had taken earlier, as UAE chased down the 232 they needed to win with over 11 overs to spare.
“It felt unbelievable,” Figy, 18, said of the moment he reached three figures in the run chase.
“To score a hundred in a World Cup is a dream. I did owe the team quite a few runs because my past two innings for the U19s haven’t been great.
“It was a good feeling to score a hundred, be not out, and for the team to get the points on the board.”
The national team are playing at the U19 World Cup for just the second time, having hosted the 2014 tournament.
They entered the competition with high hopes, but suffered an immediate reality check as Canada’s openers made a brisk start.
They were pegged back though, thanks to three wickets for Sanchit Sharma, and two apiece for Lakra and Chethiya Deshan.
“At the start, I think there were a few nerves which was understandable,” Figy said.
“As we got into the game, we started playing good cricket and fought well in the field, even if we did miss a few chances, which we have to work on.
“We bowled really good lines, which created a lot of pressure and resulted in them throwing their wickets away. That is how we pegged them back.”
After Canada were kept to 231-8 from their 50 overs, the UAE’s chase started brightly thanks to Lankra and Vriitya Aravind.
When Aravind went for 21 from 19 balls, Lakra and Figy carried their team to the point of victory, with Ansh Tandon joining Figy at the crease to help seal the win.
“When I went out to bat, we knew we just had to play 50 overs and we would win,” Figy said.
“Me and Aryan just told each other to keep batting, and kept pushing each other to run hard, as it was a big outfield. We had to stick together and keep playing.”
The UAE’s win came a day after they had watched Afghanistan thrash hosts South Africa in the opening match of the tournament.
Those are the other two sides in their group, and UAE will face Afghanistan in their next assignment on Wednesday in Potchefstroom.