x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The heat is truly on for Australia and Pakistan in Sharjah

Conditions have been as important as the team selection for the ODI series in the UAE.

The Australian team try to keep cool during the third ODI with Pakistan in Sharjah.
The Australian team try to keep cool during the third ODI with Pakistan in Sharjah.

As the Australians and Pakistanis tried to work out whether it was the frying pan or the fire they had just stepped in to at the start of play yesterday, Tony Greig settled into a corner of the air-conditioned, Perspex commentary box and tweeted his thoughts.

"This is a bit much - the temperature in the centre in Sharjah is 45C," wrote the former England captain, who was one of the original drivers of day-night matches back in the days of World Series Cricket.

"Pakistan playing five spinners. Will there be dew, that is the big question?"

And the point of it was, he was absolutely right: that was the big question. Would there be dew and how much of an influence would it have?

Can any other sport ever have asked the same question? Is there any other game in the world quite so totally in thrall to weather - in all its varieties - as cricket?

Sailing is fairly reliant on wind, for obvious reasons. But once it does blow, it does not matter if it is sunshine or showers out on the water.

Macho rugby players and footballers, meanwhile, regard playing in rain, hail or snow as a badge of honour.

And if the job of trying to explain to an American how a sport can last for five days and still end with no result is tough enough, try telling a gridiron player they sometimes take breaks to scrape dew off the playing surface in cricket.

So menacing was the prospect of water droplets settling on the outfield last night that the ground staff sprayed the outfield with chemicals to prevent it happening before the players arrived.

Seldom can any other sport waste so much time in second guessing what effect the prevailing weather will have on how a match pans out.

Sometimes you can think too much about it.

For example, Ricky Ponting misread the pitch in the Edgbaston Test of 2005.

He thought it would play well for his seam-bowlers on account of the fact it was underprepared as an unseasonal tornado had struck Birmingham the previous week.

Quite when the tornado season is in the British Midlands is unclear.

The Australia captain was pilloried for his misjudgement, when England went on to win the match by a whole two runs, and subsequently went on to regain the Ashes.

Given the extreme weather the Australia-Pakistan series has been played in, it is not just the players who have been keeping unsociable hours.

The ground staff at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, which stages the first of three Twenty20 internationals, expect to be nocturnal this week.

"If we were to roll the pitch at 10am, for example, the temperature of the metal on the roller could be 60°C," said Tony Hemming, the groundsman at Dubai Sports City.

"That wouldn't be very pleasant for the grass, to be rolled, crushed and burnt. So it's safer for us to roll in the early hours, before 8am, or after 5pm."


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