NAPIER, NEW ZEALAND // A World Cup of increasing toil for the UAE has one significant, glorious and unforeseen feature at present.
So they were comprehensively beaten by Pakistan in Napier, a few days after losing to those other titans of Asian cricket, India, by a landslide in Perth.
But who cares? The real news is that Shaiman Anwar, the sales rep who left Pakistan frustrated with cricket in favour of job security in Dubai, is the leading run-scorer in the competition. The whole of the competition. Out of all the teams.
Having barely scored a run in the year between the UAE qualifying for the World Cup and reaching here, he has been peerless.
After four matches, he is looking down on Kumar Sangakarra, Chris Gayle, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers.
Now in Napier, where the national team first landed over a month ago, ahead of some low-key preparatory matches, Shaiman celebrated a third score in excess of 50 in the competition.
He has an aggregate of 270 runs (better than everyone) at a strike-rate of 100 (better than Virat Kohli), with an average of 67.50 (better than Gayle), and a best of 106 (better than Brendon McCullum). Whatever way you look at it, the Sialkot-born batsman is on a streak that is the deepest shade of purple.
All of which is the sort of way a spin doctor would recommend they view a defeat by 129 runs.
The UAE look like they are starting to flag. That is understandable, after more than a month away from home, which far exceeds any other tours they have undertaken before.
Their weariness surfaced most obviously in the field. The national team have never been natural fielders, but improved massively ahead of this trip.
Old habits have begun to resurface, though, as a number of catches went down. Two, in quick succession, were vital.
Ahmed Shahzad was put down by Khurram Khan at mid-off on eight, then again by Andri Berenger at backward point having added three runs.
Neither was a simple chance, but if UAE want to compete in this company they need to snaffle them.
It let Shahzad, who had looked out of sorts in the tournamentso far, off the hook and he went on to make 93.
That was the bedrock of Pakistan’s effort, and when Haris Sohail, Sohaib Maqsood and Misbah-ul-Haq also pillaged the UAE bowling, they were able to rack up a mammoth 339 for six from their 50 overs.
Despite Shaiman’s heroics, as well as more lusty late order hitting from Amjad Javed, the UAE never got close.
Star performer: Misbah-ul-Haq
The UAE know better than most that Misbah is capable of quick scoring. He did make one of the two fastest centuries in Abu Dhabi, after all. He brought that game, rather than his plodding alter ego, for this meeting at McLean Park and savaged 65 off 49 balls.
Under performer: Nasir Jamshed
Maybe this actually counted as a good day for Jamshed. It was his top score of the World Cup so far, at least. But the burly opener, who will have fancied his chances against bowlers he has played against often in UAE domestic cricket, continued his nightmarish form with a mere four runs here.
There were two, which came in such quick succession, they more or less count as one. Khurram Khan and Andri Berenger each gave Ahmed Shahzad the chance to shake off his indifferent form. He made them pay, to the tune of 93 runs, which laid the platform for Pakistan’s win.
Pakistan rating: 7/10
They may be some way off vintage form, but Misbah’s side did all they needed to in this game. Better still, six of the batsmen had a good spell of time at the crease. They might have pushed a little harder with the ball, but credit Shaiman Anwar and Khurram Khan for being good enough to blunt the bowlers.
UAE rating: 5/10
Not as bad as against India on Wednesday. At least they looked like they felt they belonged here. However, their fielding was ragged and the top of the batting order misfired again. Their were some highlights too, namely Mohammed Naveed with the ball, and Shaiman and Amjad Javed with the bat.
The National verdict
It seems strange to think the UAE’s players will be wanting this tournament to end. They have waited for this chance all their lives. However, after the promise of the opening two games, the side’s self belief has been punctured by the big boys, if the body language of the players is anything to go by.