x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Crowds in UAE add to comforts for Andrew Strauss

Despite their Test series defeat to Pakistan, England captain has no complaints about the series being hosted by the UAE.

Andrew Strauss, right, the England captain, is encouraged by the spectator turnout in the ongoing Test series against Pakistan.
Andrew Strauss, right, the England captain, is encouraged by the spectator turnout in the ongoing Test series against Pakistan.

DUBAI // England cricketers of a previous vintage used to term trips to the subcontinent "the hardship tours" – and good ones to skip, if you value your insides.

That Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell have fallen victim to stomach ailments this week has been a reminder of a previous age, but touring Dubai and Abu Dhabi should not have been much of a hardship otherwise.

This has clearly been the easy way to tour Pakistan for England. Andrew Strauss, their captain, intimated as much on Thursday. "We have had a fantastic time," he said. "The facilities here and in Abu Dhabi are first-rate, they match every ground in the world.

"As a group, it is fantastic to play somewhere different, a different environment and conditions."

It is a nice eulogy, given his side are 2-0 down already, and have much work to do to halt a series whitewash when the third and final Test starts at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Friday morning.

One reason for cheer was provided by the fact the two sides were watched by a relatively substantial crowd in the last Test in Abu Dhabi.

Spectator numbers watching cricket's longest format in Asia have long been in regression, so the turnout in Abu Dhabi on Friday and Saturday, with an estimated 14,000 through the gates, was promising.

The first Test in Dubai was sparsely attended, but, with the first two days being played on the weekend for the third Test, Sports City officials hope between 7,000 and 10,000 will attend.

"You always like to see full houses," Strauss said. "The number of people that came to the Abu Dhabi game on the Saturday was really encouraging.

"The more cricket you have here, the more people will come out and support. There are certainly no negatives from our point of view."

The fact both matches to date have provided compelling cricket, and produced results, has been due in large part to the to the unexpectedly sporting wickets.

"For some while we have talked about the pitch being suitable to ensure a fair contest between bat and ball," Haroon Lorgat, the chief executive of the International Cricket Council, said this week when considering the challenges facing the five day format.

For all the success Pakistan have achieved against England at their adopted home grounds in the Emirates, their players would clearly prefer to be back in their homeland.

There is a slim chance Bangladesh will visit Pakistan for a series of one-day internationals in April, and Misbah-ul-Haq hopes it will come to pass.

"As a player, you miss playing cricket at home," said Misbah, the Pakistan captain.

"There is nothing better than that, to play at home. It is better for your viewers and your supporters in Pakistan.

"The supporters in Pakistan love to see international cricket there. It should be there sooner or later."

pradley@thenational.ae


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