Arabian Cricket Challenge November 5, 2007

Counties head for UAE pre-season event

Tournament fixtures

Five counties will join UAE in a six-team event in the United Arab Emirates next March as part of their pre-season preparations.

Essex, Lancashire, Somerset, Sussex and Yorkshire will all compete in the Arabian Cricket Challenge which will be held at the state-of-the-art Abu Dhabi Stadium with two matches in Sharjah.

"Sussex and Essex came out on pre-season last year and played against each other in Abu Dhabi," organiser Mathew Jackson told Cricinfo. "They enjoyed it so much that that they requested to play other counties this year."

The main problems facing counties with pre-season tours is the unknown standard of the opposition and uncertainty over the pitches they are likely to play on. By arranging county-standard opponents at top-class venues, those fears have been removed.

The sides will play four 50-over matches - each of them will miss playing one other county - with a trophy for the winners. On most days there will be two games on each ground, with match starting in the morning followed by a day-night match.

"The aim is to develop the cricket in the UAE," Jackson said. "The climate and the proximity to the UK - it's only six and half hours flying time - during the off season means that it could become like Florida where they hold baseball spring training." While no official sponsor has yet been found, Jackson is in talks with several interested parties.

The highlight of the event is what is believed to be the first competitive Roses match outside the UK (the sides met in a friendly in South Africa last year).

The organisers will also be staging an Under-19s school tournament at the same time. It will feature sides from Worth, Wellington, Eastbourne and St Bedes in a round-robin 40-over competition.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo