Zimbabwe recorded their highest World Cup run chase to avoid an embarrassing defeat by United Arab Emirates.
UAE’s Shaiman Anwar scored 67 as the qualifiers posted 285-7, their highest one-day international score, in their first World Cup match since 1996.
Zimbabwe started slowly before the greater quality and experience of the Test nation began to shine through.
Sean Williams’s well-constructed 76 led them to a four-wicket victory with 12 balls to spare in Pool B.
UAE, the last of the 14 competing nations to play their opening match of the tournament, almost caused a shock in the picturesque New Zealand city of Nelson as they chased a first ODI win against a Test side.
The Arab qualifiers showed few nerves in their first World Cup appearance in 19 years and passed their previous ODI best, 282-4 against Afghanistan set last November.
Anwar’s enterprising 50-ball innings, which included nine fours and a six, set the platform before eighth-wicket pair Mohammad Naveed and Amjad Javed added 53 runs to complete the record tally.
Zimbabwe were boosted by an encouraging display against South Africa in their opening match, producing devastating spells with bat and ball before eventually succumbing to a 62-run defeat.
The lowest-ranked Test side showed enough in that performance to suggest they would reach the target against a UAE side which had only recorded one previous World Cup win.
But UAE skipper Mohammad Tauqir celebrated becoming the oldest captain in World Cup history – aged 43 years and 36 days – by taking the first two wickets as Zimbabwe floundered on 112-3.
Brendan Taylor’s swashbuckling 47 steadied Zimbabwe’s chase before the sixth-wicket partnership of Craig Ervine and Williams upped the run-rate in an even game.
Ervine’s dismissal gave UAE hope before man-of-the-match Williams took control, capping a tremendous innings with three successive boundaries as Zimbabwe, whose previous best run chase had been 231 against Kenya in 1999, boosted their hopes of reaching the last eight.