The UAE had the longest wait of any of the participating sides for their first match in the 2015 World Cup, but they didn't show any ring rust as they ran Zimbabwe pretty close at the Saxton Oval in Nelson.
Zimbabwean captain Elton Chigumbura won the toss and chose to field first, and the UAE were batting a little within themselves at the start of their innings. When Khurram Khan joined Krishna Karate at the crease, the innings began to kick on. The pair put on 82 for the third wicket before Karate was out for 34.
Khan was out soon afterwards for 45, which brought Shaiman Anwar to the crease. Anwar made a return to form, sharing in an 82 run partnership for the fifth wicket with Swapnil Patil. Anwar was the seventh man out having scored 67 from 50 balls.
That wicket fell in the 45th over, with the score on 232. The eighth wicket pairing of Amjad Javed and Mohammad Naveed then put on an unbeaten 53 to take the UAE total to 285-7 from their 50 overs.
Zimbabwe started with Sikandar Raza and Regis Chakabva putting on 64 for the opening wicket, the partnership ending when Raza was out for 46. UAE kept the run rate down until the late overs of the innings, with the score on 167 when the fifth wicket fell in the 33rd over.
The UAE were arguably on top at this point, but an 83 run partnership for the sixth wicket between Sean Williams and Craig Ervine swung the game back the way of Zimbabwe. The partnership ended when Ervine was out for 42, whilst Williams went on to score 76 from 65 balls to lead Zimbabwe to a four wicket win with two overs to spare.
UAE will of course be disappointed with the loss, but will be pleased that they managed to push a full member pretty close. It was arguably the most competitive match of the World Cup so far, and it involved two teams that ICC CEO David Richardson probably wasn't thinking of when he said there were only 8 competitive teams in the World Cup.
The UAE's next match will be on Wednesday when they take on an Ireland side seeking a quarter final place. On the strength of this performance, Ireland will be facing a tougher challenge than they perhaps were expecting previously.
Zimbabwe beat United Arab Emirates by 4 wickets
Saxton Oval, Nelson, 19 February
United Arab Emirates 285-7 (50 overs, Shaiman Anwar 67, Khurram Khan 45, T Chatara 3-42)
Zimbabwe 286-6 (48 overs, S Williams 76*, B Taylor 47, Sikandar Raza 46)