x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Capital to make its Test match debut

Mani confident pitch will hold up for a five-day game in the series between Pakistan and South Africa which Sharjah is likely to co-host.

ABU DHABI // The Zayed Cricket Stadium will host Test cricket for the first time later this year when Pakistan take on South Africa in a series in the UAE. The Emirates have become a second home for Pakistan cricket since international sides stopped touring their homeland because of fears about security.

Pakistan have regularly played limited-overs series in the UAE in recent times, and are now set to re-engage in the five-day format of the game after a seven-year gap. Four Tests have been held in the country, in Sharjah, with Pakistan taking on the West Indies twice in February 2002 and Australia twice in October of the same year. Dilawar Mani, the chief executive of the Abu Dhabi Cricket Club, said the capital is "absolutely ready" for Test cricket.

"It is very, very encouraging that we will soon be an international Test match venue," said Mani, who is also the chief executive of Emirates Cricket Board, the governing body for cricket in the UAE. The Zayed Stadium is currently hosting its most high-profile first-class fixture to date, the season-opening English domestic match between the champion county side, Durham, and the MCC. The UAE national team have also played four-day matches here in the past, and Mani is sure the playing surface is up to the rigours of a five-day game. "This wicket looks so flat to me we could probably play a 10-day game on it," he said. "It is absolutely ready for a Test match. I think our groundsman has done a great job."

The Pakistan board are planning to play two Test matches against the Proteas, starting at the end of October. One will definitely be staged in Abu Dhabi, while Sharjah could also be revived as a venue for top-class international cricket by staging the other. In addition to the two Tests, five one-day internationals - four at Dubai Sports City and one in Abu Dhabi - are being scheduled. Plans are also in place for two Twenty20 matches in the capital.