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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Shahid Afridi and Chris Gayle among big names signed up to new cricket format to be trialled in Sharjah

Matches of 10-overs per side are played inside 90 minutes, subject to ICC approval.

Shahid Afridi, right, of Hampshire celebrates his century with James Vince during the T20 Blast at The 3aaa County Ground on August 22, 2017 in Derby, England. Nigel Roddis / Getty Images
Shahid Afridi, right, of Hampshire celebrates his century with James Vince during the T20 Blast at The 3aaa County Ground on August 22, 2017 in Derby, England. Nigel Roddis / Getty Images

A potentially revolutionary new format of cricket will be trialled in Sharjah later this year, subject to International Cricket Council approval.

Shahid Afridi, Chris Gayle, Kumar Sangakarra and Virender Sehwag have been signed up for a new competition, in which matches of 10-overs per side are played inside 90 minutes.

It is believed over 100 international players have been sounded out about playing in the event, with the rights to a number of franchises representing different areas of the subcontinent having been sold.

Shahid Afridi, the Sharjah-crowd favourite, who made his first Twenty20 century in the UK’s T20 Blast on Wednesday at the age of 37, is signed up to a franchise reportedly known as “Team Pakhtoons”.

The matches are due to take place at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, although the ground’s administrators were unwilling to confirm their involvement when contacted by The National on Wednesday until the event has been signed off by the sport’s governing body.

The new competition is planned to be fitted into four days, finishing on December 24, in what promises to be a busy winter of cricket in Sharjah.

The ground is also being lined up to host Pakistan internationals, the Pakistan Super League, as well as Afghanistan’s first Tests series against Zimbabwe.

The tournament is being run by a management group owned by Shaji Ul Mulk, a businessman who is a long-time supporter and benefactor of cricket in the UAE.

Ul Mulk acknowledged the event is “a work in progress”, but is sure it will go ahead, pending permission from the Emirates Cricket Board and the ICC.

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He hopes it will have a lasting impact on the landscape of cricket, by streamlining the game even more than Twenty20, to a timeframe in line with sports such as football.

“The rationale we are following is that world sports can be 90 minutes,” Ul Mulk told The National.

“Cricket evolved from five days, to one day, to T20, which lasts for 180 minutes. So why not 90 minutes? The whole concept is for fast-paced cricket and a short format.”

Official details of the participating players, the franchises, and the draft process for each of the teams, are due to be made next week.

The involvement of the likes of Afridi, the Pakistan allrounder, and Sehwag, the former India opener, will likely go a long way to generating supporter interest in the event.

The presence of Afridi is usually the best guarantee of ticket sales for cricket in the UAE, while, even in retirement, Sehwag proved to be the main draw at the ill-fated Masters Champions League in the Emirates last year.

UAE to take on Namibia in Intercontinental Cup match

Rohan Mustafa will look to extend his fine start to his tenure as UAE captain when the national team travel to face Namibia next month.

The allrounder will lead a 14-man squad to Windhoek for an Intercontinental Cup match and two World Cricket League fixtures.

The national team will have a six-day warm up tour to Pretoria in South Africa, before heading to Namibia.

“Doing well, in these tournaments, is vitally important in continuing our climb up the ICC rankings ladder,” said Zayed Abbas, the Emirates Cricket Board spokesman.