UAE all but end Zimbabwe’s World Cup dream

Zimbabwe all but crashed out of the running for a spot at the 2019 World Cup with a narrow three-run defeat to United Arab Emirates in their final Super Six match at the Harare Sports Club. Chasing 230 in 40 overs in a rain-affected match, Zimbabwe went into the last over needing 15, but managed only 11. Their chase had been powered by Sean Williams’ 80, but his dismissal in the 37th over left the lower order with too much to do, and UAE held their nerve to record their first victory over a Test nation.
How can Zimbabwe still qualify?
Zimbabwe’s loss means they end with five points whereas Afghanistan and Ireland, who will play each other on Friday, have four each. Whoever wins on Friday will take the tenth spot in the World Cup but Zimbabwe still have a slim and improbable chance of making it which rests on the Afghanistan-Ireland match ending in a tie. In that case, all three teams will be tied on five points each but both Afghanistan’s and Ireland’s net run rate will take a beating since the teams will be conceding as many runs as they score. While Afghanistan’s NRR (0.34) is already below Zimbabwe’s (0.42), Ireland’s NRR (0.47) will slip below Zimbabwe’s to a value of 0.377.
However, if Friday’s clash is washed out, the three teams will end on five points again but the NRRs for Afghanistan and Ireland won’t change and Ireland will go through because of a higher NRR.
Needing to score at 5.75 from the outset, with only 40 overs and the potential of further rain delays, this was a situation in which Zimbabwe might have welcomed Cephas Zhuwao’s big hitting up front. But without him in the XI, Hamilton Masakadza and Solomon Mire opened the batting.
With the ball skidding on a little quicker on a surface juiced up by the shower, Mohammad Naveed’s pace soon proved too much for Mire. Late on a pull, he spliced an easy catch to Shaiman Anwar at midwicket. Working up serious pace, Naveed then sent Masakadza’s off stump cartwheeling with a delivery clocked at 140kph. Those wickets put a dent in Zimbabwe, but it seemed they were floored when Brendan Taylor played down the wrong line at a delivery from Ahmed Raza that rushed on with the arm, zipping between bat and pad to bowl him for 15. Zimbabwe were reeling against the ropes at 45 for 3 with their best batsman back in the dressing room and the asking rate now at 6.6 per over.
But while UAE’s bowling attack packed a punch, they couldn’t quite deliver the knockout blow. Williams and Peter Moor gritted their way through the new ball, a stiffness in their strokeplay that spoke volumes about the incredibly high stakes of this match. It wasn’t until Williams started to connect his reverse sweeps that they began to settle. He collected boundaries off Raza and Mustafa, and then broke free with a remarkable upper cut off Amir Hayat in the 25th over. That shot took him into the 40s, and a quick single soon after brought up a vital fifty from 56 deliveries.
Immediately afterwards, however, Moor chipped a drive straight to Adnan Mufti in the covers to fall for 39. A 79-run partnership was broken, and the pressure increased once more. Needing at least a boundary an over, Raza and Williams scampered for every possible run, taking on the field, while Raza managed to puncture the leg-side boundary to keep the asking rate just about within check. Their fifty stand came up from only 36 deliveries, but the exertion began to tell on Williams, and cramps set in.