Test cricket returns to Sharjah
Sharjah will host its first Test in nine years this November, after Pakistan and Sri Lanka reached an agreement to play the last of their three Tests in the UAE at the venue. The Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium has hosted more ODIs than any other ground but has not had any international cricket between top teams since 2003.
With international stadiums being built in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, it had looked unlikely that Sharjah would make a return as a venue for big matches. However, the Emirates Cricket Board has now said there will be a Test there starting November 3.
"We've finally confirmed that Pakistan will play a Test in Sharjah," Dilawar Mani, chief of the Emirates board, told the Express Tribune. "We offered Sharjah at the very beginning - apart from Dubai and Abu Dhabi - but it was necessary for both sides to agree to play in Sharjah. We're now delighted to know that it has happened."
The other two venues for the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Test series are the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi and the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, which hosted their debut Tests during the Pakistan-South Africa series in November 2010.
Sharjah was once a popular venue for neutral ODIs and tri-series and has hosted 200 one-day internationals, 24 of those between India and Pakistan. However, the venue received a blow when India, who had played 72 one-dayers in Sharjah, stopped playing there. The ground hosted its debut Test in 2002, but after 2003 did not have any international cricket till it was named as Afghanistan's home ground in 2010, and hosted two ODIs between them and Canada.
The stadium had disintegrated in the absence of top-flight cricket but is now being brought back up to top standard. "The renovation work is in full swing and we hope to be ready by November 3," Mazhar Khan, the stadium administrator, said. "The venue was very keen to host a fixture during the two series that Pakistan will be playing [in the UAE]. After all, Sharjah has many Pakistani and Sri Lankan followers who will now be able to watch their teams."
Sri Lanka will play three Tests, five ODIs and a Twenty20 international against Pakistan from October 18 onwards in the UAE.