x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Golf and cricket: worlds apart yet side by side

It typifies Abu Dhabi's emergence that it could stage a Saturday so big that if you stood at hole No 3 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, but came down with curiosity about Pakistan v England, well, you could just skedaddle on over.

England lost to Pakistan in the second Test match at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
England lost to Pakistan in the second Test match at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.

If you stood in the corner of one sport world on the edge of Abu Dhabi yesterday, you could look over and see the light stanchions from another sport world, the two worlds nearly colliding.

In fact, it typifies Abu Dhabi's emergence that it could stage a Saturday so big that if you stood in the pro golf world at hole No 3 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, but suddenly came down with curiosity about Pakistan v England at Zayed Cricket Stadium, well, you could just skedaddle on over.

And then if you stood in Zayed Cricket Stadium during the fourth day of the second Test wondering about Tiger Woods, you could just head on back, and if at Abu Dhabi Golf Club you learned of gathering cricket drama, you could return again, then maybe even return again-again for more golf.

Life offers so few golf-cricket-golf-cricket-golf days; we must snare them when possible.

In fact, if you stood around the golfing corner of Nos 3 and 4 at half noon, you might have seen Woods tee off with a thick gallery standing round in red (a promotion). You might have checked Woods's expressive visage to see that he liked this one as with many this week, and then you might have looked back to spot a cagey putt from the No 3 fringe by a guy with shampoo-commercial hair who from a distance resembled Robert Rock.

Just a 7km ride from there, you might have found a scoreboard reading, "Bowled", England fans cheering their No 1 side off the pitch. Their batsmen would need a puny 145, and soon the cricket cognoscenti would say of Pakistan, "They're opening with spin." England would commence scrounging runs like pearls from oysters, 13 by almost 2pm, but no real tension, and how's Tiger doing?

In fact, you might have re-reached the course and found Woods sharing the lead on nine under, looking crisp, steady, robust. By 3.30pm, his tricky birdie bid on 14 might have started left, veered right and looked so giddy trickling into the cup that it all but danced and sang.

He led, alone, a must-see always, order restored to the global ecosystem, but check out these words on BBC: "Forget Liverpool-Manchester United, somewhere in the desert there is an unbelievable sporting drama unfolding." And: "crisis". And: "excruciating". And: England at 60-5.

So on one heady Saturday in Abu Dhabi, you might have fretted that in craving both finishes you might see nothing for trying to see everything, yet you might have bolted to Zayed Cricket Stadium by 3.52pm.

And in fact, you might have seen children hopping outside on news of another wicket. You might have scanned the car park and counted 17 taxis, yellow roof signs dotting the horizon. You might have entered, spotted England's 72-8 on the board, reached the knoll and barely had time to plop down before Matthew Prior sliced a catch and Asad Shafiq's teammates chased him in beautiful madness.

One eye-blink later, you might have witnessed James Anderson's hoik, Umar Gul's catch, Pakistan fans' mirth. Really? Four balls, two wickets? As fans still rushed in, Abdur Rehman on Saeed Ajmal: "He's my great partner." Andrew Strauss: "I think a lot of people in the dressing room right now are feeling pretty down and disappointed, but in circumstances like this it's important to acknowledge how well Pakistan played." Misbah-ul-Haq: "First of all I would like to thank Almighty Allah for granting us such a wonderful victory."

And the thing is, on such a day in Abu Dhabi, you still could scurry back to see a 22-year-old Danish talent in purple trousers finish his third round, stay in contention and flip a golf ball to a kid in a Steven Gerrard shirt. You still could hear the co-leader Woods report that his body is "remembering" childhood swing positions and his coach has texted from America that he likes Woods's club position, his "through pattern" and his "release pattern", all of it!

You still might hear the other co-leader, Rock, say he yearned for the Sunday grouping with Woods, closed with two birdies to get there, and chooses to wear no hat some days, maybe because he has shampoo-commercial hair.

And in fact, you even might have finished this whipsawing day walking a fine golf course on trainers filled with sand from a cricket car park, with the urge to dump the sand and the judgement not to do so on the fine golf course.

If that kind of moment doesn't make your bucket list, maybe your bucket list just lacks for details.