The United Arab Emirates national cricket team is the team that represents the country of the United Arab Emirates in international cricket matches. They became an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 1989 and an associate member the following year.
One of the strongest non-Test playing sides in Asia, the UAE won the ACC Trophy on four consecutive occasions between 2000 and 2006, and were runners-up in the other three times the tournament has been played in 1996, 1998 and 2008. They won the ICC Trophy in 1994, and played their first One Day Internationals that year. They played in the 1996 Cricket World Cup.
Cricket was first played in what is now the UAE by the British Royal Air Force and other Commonwealth troops stationed in what was then the Trucial States during World War II. The pitches installed by them around the air base in Sharjah were used by British and other foreign nationals after the war ended.
The game was beginning to decline in the late 1960s when Asians began settling in the country, and those from India and Pakistan brought with them a wish to play cricket. The local Arab population, educated in India and Pakistan, set up clubs and domestic tournaments began in the 1970s.
The first match was played by the UAE national side in February 1976 against Pakistan International Airlines in Sharjah. The visitors scored 345/5 from their 50 overs and the UAE were on 88/4 from 28 overs when the game was abandoned due to rain.
Wealthy locals began investing in the sport and a international standard cricket ground was constructed in Sharjah. The Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium hosted its first major event in 1984 when India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka contested the Asia Cup. The venue has gone on to host almost 200 ODIs and four Test matches, the Test matches having been held there due to security concerns in Pakistan.
The Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) was established in 1989 and gained affiliate membership of the ICC the same year. They were quickly promoted to associate member status the following year. Also in 1990 the national side returned to action, twice losing heavily to the Netherlands. These heavy defeats showed that much work need to be done if the UAE were to be successful in the 1994 ICC Trophy and the ECB adopted a controversial policy.
Hoping to form a successful national side in time for the 1994 ICC Trophy in Kenya, the ECB attracted several players with first-class cricket experience in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to take up employment in the country so that they could satisfy the residential requirements to represent the UAE in the tournament.
With just one native Arab selected in the shape of Sultan Zarawani, who captained the side, the UAE won the ICC Trophy in Kenya and thus qualified for the 1996 World Cup. The UAE had beaten Kenya in the final, and the Kenyan players and cricket board were very vocal in their anger at being defeated by what they and other observers described as a team of imported mercenaries.
Whilst the ICC remained relatively silent on the controversy, the national team eligibility requirements were strongly tightened for all future ICC sanctioned tournaments.
The UAE played their first ODIs in 1994 when they played against India and Pakistan in the Australasia Cup, which they also hosted. They finished last in a tri-series against Kenya and the Netherlands the same year and also finished last in a tournament against the A sides of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in 1995. They returned to ODI cricket in the 1996 World Cup, where they lost all matches except the one against the Netherlands, which was the first ever ODI between two associate members of the ICC.
Later in 1996 the UAE were runners-up to Bangladesh in the first ACC Trophy. The tightened eligibility rules meant that they were unable to repeat their 1994 success when they finished tenth in the 1997 ICC Trophy in Malaysia. They were beaten by Bangladesh in the semi-finals of the 1998 ACC Trophy.
With Bangladesh being promoted to ICC full membership, the UAE began to establish themselves as the top associate side in Asia, though they often fell short against the top associates in Europe and North America, a position that remains to this day. They won the ACC Trophy in 2000 and 2002, beating Hong Kong and Nepal in the respective finals, but finished fifth in the 2001 ICC Trophy in Canada.
The UAE hosted the ICC 6 Nations Challenge in 2004 and finished fifth, level on points with four other teams. The year was a busy one for the UAE cricketers as they played the first Intercontinental Cup match against Nepal, with Ali Asad taking nine wickets in the first innings. They beat Malaysia later in the tournament but lost to Canada in the semi-finals. They also won the ACC Trophy again, beating Oman in the final. They returned to ODI cricket, losing to India and Sri Lanka in the first round of the Asia Cup, and finished fourth in the Hong Kong Sixes, beating India and South Africa on the way.
They reached the semi-finals of the Intercontinental Cup again in 2005, also playing a series against England A at Sharjah, losing all four matches. The 2005 ICC Trophy in Ireland saw them finish sixth. They beat Hong Kong in the final of the 2006 ACC Trophy, but began their 2006 ICC Intercontinental Cup campaign with an innings defeat by Namibia. The campaign continued with a draw against Scotland and a defeat by Ireland, again by an innings. They finished fourth in the first ACC Twenty20 Cup in 2007.
Their campaign in the 2007-08 ICC Intercontinental Cup has not been a successful one, with just one win (against Bermuda) in their seven matches. Things went better for them in Division Two of the World Cricket League in Windhoek in 2007, winning the tournament after beating Oman in the final.
They again played in the Asia Cup in 2008, losing to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the first round. Their 2008 ACC Trophy Elite got off to a terrible start with a shock defeat by Saudi Arabia, their first ACC Trophy defeat since the 1998 semi-final and they lost to Hong Kong in the final, ending a run of four consecutive titles.
2007: Winners (Division Two)
For a list of United Arab Emirates ODI cricketers, see List of United Arab Emirati ODI cricketers. The following players were in the UAE squad for the 2008 ACC Trophy Elite tournament: