FORMER ENGLAND CAPTAIN SIR ALASTAIR COOK AMONG STAR-STUDDED SQUADS THAT WILL PLAY EACH OTHER IN TWO T20S, ONE 45-OVER MATCH AND A TWO-DAY FIXTURE
ABU DHABI CRICKET TO WELCOME FANS FOR LIVE BROADCASTED T20 DOUBLE-HEADER ON FRIDAY 11 MARCH AT THE TOLERANCE OVAL
"THERE'S ONLY SO MUCH WE CAN DO BACK IN CHELMSFORD AND IT FEELS LIKE YOU CAN GET AN ADVANTAGE BEING HERE." - SIR ALASTAIR COOK
Essex County Cricket Club and Somerset County Cricket Club are stepping up their preparations for the new county season with an 11-day high-performance camp at Abu Dhabi Cricket.
The pair touched down at the multi-sports hub at the weekend and will play each other in two T20 matches, a 45-over game and a two-day fixture during their stay. The T20 games will be in the form of a double-header at the Tolerance Oval on Friday, 11 March, played at 2.30pm and 6.30pm GST, with the second of those games broadcast live via Abu Dhabi Cricket’s YouTube channel.
Essex captain Sir Alastair Cook leads his team’s trip to the UAE capital, returning to a venue that holds great memories for the former England skipper. Cook scored his second-highest score in Test cricket by making 263 against Pakistan at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in 2015 and also represented Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in the County Champion match at the same ground earlier that year.
“It’s always great to come back to place where you scored runs. When you’ve played one of those innings, you look back on them with great fondness,” said Cook. “The facilities here are fantastic, we’re incredibly well looked after by everyone and, for us as a county, it’s served us really well.
“We notice every time we come back that [Abu Dhabi Cricket] gets bigger and better. It’s an incredible project and it’s a sports village now. You’d be hard pressed to find anywhere in the world a facility in a few years’ time that caters for as many sports.”
Cook hopes that putting in the “hard yards” during their pre-season stint in Abu Dhabi will aid Essex’s bid for glory back home, adding: “We get 12 to 13 days of fantastic facilities, fantastic practice and we’re outside! There’s only so much we can do back in Chelmsford and it feels like you can get an advantage by being here. We feel as if we’ve got a good squad and that we can compete in all three tournaments. We’ve won some trophies recently but we didn’t last year and we hope to get back up there.”
Meanwhile, Somerset’s current England international Tom Banton and lifted the Abu Dhabi T10 trophy with Deccan Gladiators at the end of last year. Like Cook, the right-handed opener is pleased to be back at the UAE capital’s premier sports hub ahead of a big year ahead.
“I’m back here in Abu Dhabi for the third year in a row,” said Banton. “I’ve been here with several different franchises and every year it seems to get better and better and the boys love it here.
“The last time we were here, for the Abu Dhabi T10, we managed to win the competition with the Deccan Gladiators, which was probably one of my highlights over the last few years so I’m really looking forward to getting going.”
The visit of eight-time County Championship winners Essex and inaugural T20 Blast champions Somerset marks the return of major international hosting at Abu Dhabi Cricket. Both County teams will not only play four games on matches at the Tolerance Oval and Mohan’s Oval, but also make use of the 20 international nets and state-of-the-art Bodyline gym that sit on the same site.
It comes just two weeks after Abu Dhabi Cricket Council launched its new strategic vision for community cricket in the emirate and the capability to serve both top-tier professional cricket and all aspects of the domestic game highlights the versatility of the facility.
“It’s always a thrill to have players of the highest calibre be with us at Abu Dhabi Cricket and to have them mixing with our Abu Dhabi community at the same time creates a real buzz around the venue,” said Abu Dhabi Cricket CEO Matt Boucher.
“Abu Dhabi Cricket continues to prove more than capable of catering for both and the presence of Essex and Somerset, as well as their top professionals like Alastair Cook give our Zayed Cricket Academy kids ideal role models to look up to when they come and share the same facilities as their heroes.”
The trip has been organised by Sporta Tours – a subsidiary of Sporta Group – who are long-term partners of Abu Dhabi Cricket and have worked with the two County sides for a number of years.
Sporta Group director Matt Jackson explained that Abu Dhabi Cricket is the perfect venue for teams’ pre-season preparations, and said: “We’re excited to be bringing two of the top English county cricket clubs back to Abu Dhabi Cricket for their pre-season training camps. The impressive improvements made by Abu Dhabi Cricket to their facilities now make them not only one of the best cricket venues in the UAE, but also the world.”