UAE great sporting moments - No11: UAE spoil Zimbabwe's party to record first victory over Test-playing nation

The home team needed 15 runs from the last over to qualify for the 2019 Cricket World Cup. They managed 12

Every day over three weeks, The National looks back at the 21 greatest moments in UAE sports history.

The UAE cricket team’s first win against a full, Test-playing nation should have been a cause for celebration. Instead, they filled the role of party poopers.

After a troubled recent past in both their sport and their country as a whole, Zimbabwe’s cricketers had revived national pride by the way they played at the World Cup Qualifier in 2018.

In truth, few in Harare had cared a jot about the tournament when it started.

Then their team took a thrilling two-run win off favourites Afghanistan, and tied with Scotland, and suddenly cricket was a big deal again.

At the end of a tumultuous three weeks, all that stood between them and a place at the World Cup in England a year later was UAE.

Little, unheralded, UAE. Whose players had only gone professional a little over a year earlier, and who had never beaten a side from cricket’s elite in 24 years of trying.

There was free entry for the victory march at Harare Sports Club. So many wanted to see their side punch their ticket to the World Cup, the gates were shut midway through the afternoon.

The atmosphere was electric. But UAE failed to read the script.

By this point of the competition, UAE had just pride to play for.

They had secured one goal, by retaining one-day international status, but a place at the World Cup was already out of their reach.

Still, though, might as well give it a go. And they all enjoyed playing in front of big crowds, too – even if everyone was against them on this occasion.

Batting first, they reached 235-7, before heavy rain ended their innings with 13 balls still to go.

Cobbling together a competitive total had been possible thanks to Rameez Shahzad, who was bidding to follow in his father’s footsteps by representing UAE at a Cricket World Cup. Shahzad Altaf had been a thrifty bowler the first time UAE had played on the biggest stage, back in 1996.

He might have managed it, too, were he not stricken by typhoid midway through the tournament.

He made it off his sick bed to score a half-century and give UAE something to bowl at against Zimbabwe.

With 40 overs in which to get 230 to win, Zimbabwe were tracking nicely, but while their fans cheered and danced and partied, the UAE players raised themselves.

Every time they took a wicket, nerves were ratcheted taut among the home supporters.

The home team needed 15 runs from the last over to do it. They managed 12, as the UAE’s pace spearhead Mohammed Naveed closed out victory.

For Zimbabwe, the dream was lost. For UAE, little was gained, other than respect.

“It is a great achievement for us, winning against a Test nation for the first time,” Rohan Mustafa, the Sharjah-raised UAE captain, said.

“As the UAE team, no-one knows about us. But I think now they will know about us.”

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