The Royal Gazette mastheadBermuda's 2011 World Cup qualifying bid got off to the worst possible start as the Islanders crashed to a four-wicket defeat at the hands of United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Set a modest target of 188 to win after Bermuda folded in 46.3 overs, UAE knocked off the required runs with 17 balls to spare at Potchesfstroom University yesterday.

They now face a must-win game against Afghanistan today as they try to bounce back from what skipper Irving Romaine described as 'a hard loss'.

"The guys fought hard to defend a low total," said Romaine. "Perhaps if we had 40 or 50 more runs on the board it might have been a different outcome.

"It was a hard loss. We need to dig deeper and try and bat out the overs."

After electing to take first strike on a docile Absa Oval track, Bermuda quickly plunged to 67 for five in the 19th over with the big bats of Lionel Cann (12), Glenn Blakeney (8) and David Hemp (0) all falling early.

It took another stroke of genius from Janeiro Tucker, who hit a breezy 66 off 81 balls, to steady the ship.

But once UAE skipper Khurram Khan had Tucker grabbed at mid-off one over shy of the final power play, Bermuda's last three wickets tumbled for the addition of just four runs.

Picking up where he had left off against Namibia a few days ago in a practice match, Tucker signalled his arrival at the crease by pulling medium pacer Zahid Shah to the square leg boundary and then applying soft hands to delicately glance off spinner Arshard Ali down to third man.

The Southampton Rangers player/coach did offer a difficult return catch off Ali's bowling but carried on his assault by lifting left-arm spinner Khuram Khan out of the park in the 39th over to bring up his second successive half century off 63 deliveries.

In all, Tucker thumped eight boundaries and shared in a 71 run seventh-wicket stand with youngster Rodney Trott who added a steady 20 along with skipper Irving Romaine.

Next high man was Outerbridge (16) who passed a late fitness test while University of Cardiff and Wales classmate Jekon Edness chipped in with a useful 17 at the top of the order before he had his stumps shattered by a nasty Nithin Gopal inswinger that sawed through the batsman from a good length.

All-rounder Khan was the pick of the UAE bowling, claiming three for 40 off while fast bowler Amjad Javed, Shah and Ali each took two wickets respectively.

Despite impressive bowling figures of one for 13 off ten overs with five maidens by orthodox left-arm spinner Dwayne Leverock and George O'Brien jr's two wicket haul, Bermuda failed to contain their opponents who were led by swashbuckling knocks from opener Javed who scored 19 off 17 balls, Gopal (16 off 20 balls), skipper Khan's unbeaten 40 off 48 balls and Sameer Nayak's unbeaten 17 off 22 deliveries.

In contrast to the mayhem around him, opener Arshard Ali nudged a patient 41 off 89 balls to hold the innings together while his team-mates set about dissecting Bermuda's attack.

Bermuda took the second power play in the 13th over and tight wicket-to-wicket bowling from Janeiro Tucker (one for 30) and Leverock reduced the run rate to a trickle (eight off five overs) after UAE had raced to 64 for one. The same, however, cannot be said for teenaged pacer Stefan Kelly who was knocked out of the attack after giving up 36 runs during an opening five over spell.

To his credit, though, the Oakham School student found his line and length in a second spell and snared the wicket of opener Ali who was bowled playing down the wrong line.

The fiery O'Brien also had success in his second spell as Bermuda threatened to undermine the UAE run chase.

UAE required 39 off the last ten overs.

But a dropped catch by skipper Romaine off the bowling of Tucker and Kelly's missed run out attempt saw the boys from the Emirates safely through with overs to spare.

Having led from the front from the outset, it was only fitting that Khan be the one to serve the last rites with a boundary over the top of the infield to the vacant deep cover fence.