England in UAE 2011-12 January 21, 2012

The upside of a three-day finish

If I am honest with myself I secretly hoped the Dubai Test would be wrapped up inside four days

If I am honest with myself I secretly hoped the Dubai Test would be wrapped up inside four days. With just a day's build-up in Dubai before the Test started and a short taxi ride booked down to Abu Dhabi the day after what was scheduled to be day five, I considered the chance to have time to explore the sprawling metropolis a bonus.

However, what I did not wish for was the toothless, formless batting display from England on the third day that reminded me of being at Sabina Park, Jamaica, back in 2009.

We will always support the England team wherever we go, but sometimes watching batsmen after batsmen gift their wicket to the opposition is pretty hard to stomach. I had thought England would repeat their efforts in Brisbane, where they trailed heavily after the first innings and batted properly second time around. KP's dismissal, caught on the boundary for 0, summed up a pretty grim few days inside the Dubai Sports City Stadium.

But to me more worrying than the form of England's top six, was the lack of supporters for Pakistan inside the ground. Without the thousand or so English out here in the desert, the ground would have been empty throughout most of the Test.

Having the time to explore, we took a metro on Friday all the way to the north of Dubai, to a place by the coast called Palm Diera. Here, we found all the Pakistani cricket fans that the PCB hoped would fill the stadiums in the UAE. It was a sight I imagine repeated across cities like Multan or Faisalabad - a barren patch of land where over half a dozen games of cricket were being played out simultaneously with some intensity.

I walked over to the game being played out nearest to us. There was an umpire, a scorer (naturally sat in the comfort of a wheelbarrow) a set of stumps made out of bricks and a boundary marked out by a line drawn in the sand. This was a different side to Dubai than you see on the television; migrant workers from the local fish markets were taking time out between shifts to play cricket.

I spoke to a young guy who had sledged us on arrival with catcalls of "Saeed Ajmal, doosra, doosra!"about why he wasn't in the ground supporting his heroes. In broken English he explained that he and his friends were too busy working and sending money home to their families in Pakistan and couldn't justify a day's lost wages to watch the cricket.

And I guess therein lies the problem. The interest in Test cricket is definitely there - they admitted to watching every highlights programme they could. They knew how many runs Misbah-ul-Haq had made recently and that Umar Gul looks fitter now than ever. They knew Kevin Pietersen shouldn't have hit that careless shot so early on in his innings and that Ian Bell was struggling to pick Ajmal's doosra. Unlike the English fans who are here in the UAE on holiday, these fans are here working.

Since the weekend days here are Friday and Saturday, perhaps the authorities could look at scheduling the games to start around these days as opposed toTuesday? After all, if England bat as naively in Abu Dhabi as they did here, even a Wednesday start might not give adequate time for the expat workers to make the most of the time off they have.

My prediction prior to the series was that England would struggle to get going during this Test series. I also envisaged that we'd win in Abu Dhabi. I may have already got the scoreline incorrect, but if the rest follows suit, at least we will avoid a series defeat.

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

Comments