January 17, 2012

England in UAE 2011-12

Watch out Dubai

Richard Kemp
Jonathan Agnew poses with an England fan, Dubai, January 16, 2012
The author with Jonathan Agnew in Dubai  © Richard Kemp
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We've finally arrived. After months of anticipation, research and hype, the England cricket fans have checked into our Dubai hotels - many of us a few dirhams worse off thanks to the lure of cheap alcohol in the airport's duty-free. The best news from the first 24 hours in Test cricket's newest destination has been the successful deal struck between a few of the Barmy Army lads and our hotel manager to lower the beer prices in the bar. Twenty-five dirhams a beer might not be the cheapest tipple on the international circuit, but it's still cheaper than anything located during last winter's open wallet surgery tour that was Australia.

After a few reunion beers last night we soon decided it was time to warm up the vocal chords and have a sing-song. Several minutes in, a local guy got up from his seat at the bar and walked up to us. Fearing he was going to ask us to quieten down, we lowered the volume. He instantly looked disappointed, before encouraging us to start singing at full volume again.

Now everyone's attention has switched to the first Test. After a tour round the world's biggest building site, also known as Dubai Sports City, we retired to the local golf-course restaurant for the traditional pre-series supporter selection meeting. The general feeling that England would go into the opening game with the usual seven batsmen-four bowler line-up was confirmed after a chat with BBC's Test Match Special commentator, Jonathan Agnew. Word got round that England were having afternoon nets which a dozen or so of us ambushed, getting the opportunity to speak with Aggers and a few of the England backroom staff to get some inside information on the make-up of the final XI.

Andy Flower seemed pleased to see a few supporters milling around the nets at the ICC Global Academy. He said he expected the majority of supporters would choose Sri Lanka over the UAE. After thanking us for making the journey out to support the team, he told us to "make sure our voices are heard during the series". Don't worry, coach - we will.

My feeling is that this might just be a tougher series for England than many believe. Perhaps the time since England last played a Test that has clouded my confidence in what is, undoubtedly, the best squad in Test cricket. After all, it isn't very often that an England side has a gap of four months since its last Test. It wouldn't surprise me if England take a while to get going here.

Pakistan have been in confident form since England last played red-ball cricket and the first Test in Dubai might just be the time they need to strike. If they don't, England might run away with the series just like last winter in Australia and the summer at home against the Indians.

Prediction from me? 1-0 to England with an Abu Dhabi victory sandwiched between the games in Dubai.

Richard Kemp is in the UAE on his ninth cricket tour with the England side. Since his first tour in 2004, his love for the game has made him max out several credit cards visiting five Test-playing nations, including three tours of India and all five of last winter's Ashes Test matches. He keeps a travel blog of his journeys here

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Keywords: Fans, Touring

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Posted by bilal on (February 10, 2012, 10:00 GMT)

i think you predications must be adjusted everytime england tours asia. the score line prediction of 1-0 to england looks completely different to the 0-3 they witnessed.

Posted by g prestwood on (January 22, 2012, 14:41 GMT)

If after cricket, a night cap should be neede, us the entertainer vouchers two for one or go arround the city for happy hour, in the hotels. Crown Plaza Hamdam street is fab. And Yas Island Crown Plaza also they love cricket.

Posted by Gillian Prestwood on (January 22, 2012, 14:35 GMT)

Just have a great time in Abu Dhabi, Cricket and Golf in one week what more can one want. I hope the Barmy Army have a fun time. And the Golfers too. The Sun did not shine today much, lets hope better weather is on the way.

Posted by Srb on (January 19, 2012, 15:34 GMT)

Wrong!!!!

Posted by Ahmad on (January 19, 2012, 13:51 GMT)

prediction needs reviewing, i hear the cricket pundits and betting dens are in a haywire.

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