We arrived at the World Cup with a set plan. Dav Whatmore, the new coach for the Zimbabwe team, said he had his eye on a quarterfinal slot. So we expected to beat Ireland, walk over the United Arab Emirates UAE and then upset one of the Test-playing nations, with an eye on either West Indies or Pakistan.

The differing times zones have ensured that only the most avid of Zimbabwe cricket fans are up for the late night or early morning starts. Hence, they are not taking underperformances lightly. A large expat community in New Zealand has also ensured that there is ample support for the team on the ground.

After a performance that almost saw Zimbabwe pulling off a major upset against South Africa, the Zimbabwe supporters were bullish about their encounter with UAE. I wasn’t sure of Zimbabwe’s decision to bowl after winning the toss. I felt Zimbabwe were better off batting first and setting a big total, then turning on the heat, dismissing the UAE quickly and earning a good net run-rate. I say this as it seems a few slots for the quarterfinal will come down to net run-rates.

UAE, however, had other plans. And although they gave a few chances that went begging – a dropped catch, ball not carrying to the slips and a wicket off a no-ball – they made a decent start. The Zimbabwe team had a lackadaisical approach to their innings, a slightly complacent, if not arrogant attitude, as if they had already won the game and were just going through the motions.

We watched with our hearts in our mouths as UAE were piling on the runs at a faster rate than South Africa had done initially. While the scoreboard ticked in the middle overs we became distracted by a hashtag on twitter, #KhurramKhanFacts, which gave UAE’s Khurram Khan a Chuck Norris-type persona bringing a little comic relief in the face of a probable loss.

Khurram was finally dismissed for a well-fought 45, but our hopes of restricting UAE for 250 were dashed by a gutsy Shaiman Anwar. Zimbabwe’s death bowling has been exposed. All of a sudden, the UAE were not the walkover we had anticipated. There now was a real possibility that we could go down to them.

The Zimbabwe openers did not help ease the tension. Sikander Raza soon came out of his shell and started expressing himself, while Regis Chakabva might as well have been looking to bat through into day two. The loss of Masakadza was a huge blow. Lady Luck certainly seemed to be on a sabbatical as Chakabva slipped and knocked his stumps with his foot.

Panic was the prevalent sentiment on social media, with some calling it quits and going back to sleep. The thought of a batting collapse was unbearable, but a fearful reality. Brendan Taylor fell three short of his fifty. Hard-hitting Solomon Mire was promoted to up the run rate, which I felt was a good idea, but it didn’t go as planned like everything else today. It was left to Sean Williams and Craig Ervine to steady the ship and restore order in the chase and put our hearts at ease. With UAE out of the way, we will now be backing them and wish them well in bringing down any of the remaining Goliaths!

Elton Chigumbura, the captain, left us with a gem at the post match interview, when he said he would like to take the momentum from this match into the next. No! We would rather you forget this match and just start the afresh!

This article was first published by Wisden India

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