Less than a month after their finest ever day on a cricket field, the UAE will return to competitive action on Friday. It is the start of a process they hope will end in qualification for the World Twenty20 in Australia in 2020.
What a difference a month makes. Last time out, the national team beat Zimbabwe in front of a pulsating crowd at a packed out Harare Sports Club.
The stands were rammed, and a television audience that numbered in the millions tuned in to see the UAE triumph over a full Test-playing nation for the first time.
And now? It is unclear quite what sort of attendance will make it along to watch UAE play against Qatar in the 8.30am match at Entertainment City Cricket Ground in Kuwait – if any.
The World T20 Asian Western Sub Regional Qualifier is, it is fair to say, of a significantly lower profile than what went immediately before for the national team.
Their rivals for one of the three places in the next phase of qualifying – Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Maldives and Kuwait – have less turf cricket grounds combined between them than there are in the Emirates.
If the UAE play to anything like the standards they set in Zimbabwe at the 50-over World Cup Qualifier in March, they should have nothing to fear. The biggest concern, in fact, might be making it to the bus in time for the 6.30am departure for the ground.
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Admittedly, the team will be switching to the 20-over format for the first time after a lengthy run of 50-over games. Their win on against Zimbabwe was the 16th competitive 50-over match they had played since the start of 2018.
Although their preparation to the shortest format has been nowhere near as exhaustive as their lead-in to the 50-over Qualifier, they all at least played some 20-over cricket before leaving for Kuwait. A new inter-Emirates T20 tournament, won by Sharjah last Saturday, was a decent tune up for the national team’s players ahead of the trip to Kuwait.
Coach Dougie Brown said his side will not be lacking for motivation. And, he said, T20 is the format that suits his side best anyway, given the quantity of it that is played at domestic level in the Emirates.
“We’ve just come back from an enormous tournament in Zimbabwe, where we have played exceptionally well but in a very different type of tournament to what we are about to embark on here,” Brown said.
“One thing we pride ourselves on as a team is our ability to play Twenty20 cricket. It has been fantastic to come back from Zim and change it up straight away, playing the inter-Emirates T20.
“The majority of players that are here performed really well over the course of the matches they have played.
“It is a format of the game we are very confident in playing. Clearly it is a lower standard to what we have been playing against, but there are some very dangerous teams here. We have to make sure we deliver our best form of T20 cricket if we are to progress from this tournament.”
Neither will there be any complacency, according to Brown. “Is it low-key? The standard of opposition might be less than we have been playing against recently, but this is an ICC World T20 global event qualifier,” he said.
“If we can’t get up for this, we shouldn’t be playing to begin with. We can’t afford to get it wrong, even if we go into the tournament as one of the favourites.
“We would be delighted to feature in a global tournament, that is why we train as hard as we do. It would be fairly easy to get up for the matches this week.”