ESPNCricinfo: With his team’s World Cup dreams all but shattered, a devastated Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer lamented the two missed opportunities to qualify against West Indies and UAE. Zimbabwe needed a win in either match to be sure of their place.
“It’s very painful,” Cremer said. “We had two bites at getting to the final, and we’ve stumbled at the last hurdle.
“We were so hungry [to win today]. The ball was in our court, we just needed to turn up today and play some of our best cricket, then it might have been a different story. Guys are shattered in the change room. I’m sure most Zimbabweans are.”
This tournament has seen packed terraces for all of Zimbabwe’s games, and Harare Sports Club was filled to capacity for their match against UAE. At one point in the afternoon, the gates were closed and people were being turned away from the match. But despite the vocal home support, they once again fell short.
“The fans have been excellent, from Bulawayo to here, and another great turnout today. They’ll probably be more disappointed than anyone, because they’ve turned out and at least expected us to win one of these two games to qualify. So there was big expectation on us. We’re really sad that we couldn’t give them what they wanted.”
Zimbabwe had found success in this tournament by setting totals, but after winning the toss on Thursday, Cremer opted to bowl. Zimbabwe picked up the early wicket of Ashfaq Ahmed, but UAE’s top five rallied to put them into a good position, with Rameez Shahzad top-scoring with 59. Once again, Zimbabwe weren’t quite as sharp as they needed to be in the field.
“We were a bit unsure but we backed ourselves that whatever we did, bat or bowl, we will come out on top. We gave them a few too many, and then to only have 40 overs with the bat, that cost us a bit. We’d still back ourselves to chase 230 in 40 overs, but a poor start again. We keep losing wickets in that first Powerplay, which has probably cost us.”
Zimbabwe lost Solomon Mire, Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor cheaply in their chase, but were revived by Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza. Williams raced to 80 at a run a ball, while Raza was quickly into his groove with a 26-ball 34. Neither was able to take their side home, however, and with their dismissals, UAE took control of the game.
“When we were batting we got a few partnerships going but we lost wickets in crucial periods,” Cremer said. “When Raza got out, that was crucial for us. Because he could have won that game with a couple of overs to spare, the way he was batting. When Sean got out, that was another big moment in the game.”
While Cremer rued a missed opportunity that could have far-reaching consequences for Zimbabwean cricket, UAE captain Rohan Mustafa celebrated what is a major milestone for his team: taking down a Full Member.
“A great achievement for the UAE team, because we have never won against a Test nation team,” Mustafa said. “So it’s a great achievement, and it shows the world that UAE, and the other Associate countries, are getting better.
“We can take confidence from this match, because we beat such a good team. Zimbabwe is one of the best teams in this tournament, and we beat them. So there is a lesson for us, and it will help us.”