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Abu Dhabi keen to host MCC match

The Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, is currently hosting Pakistan v New Zealand
The Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, hosting Pakistan v New Zealand

By Oliver Brett

The leading cricket official in the United Arab Emirates says the country would be "honoured" to host the MCC in the traditional county curtain-raiser.

The MCC is considering a plan to play champion county Durham in early April at Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Stadium in a four-day match trialling pink balls.

And Emirates Cricket Board chief executive Dilawar Mani told BBC Sport: "We would obviously accommodate them.

"It would be a great honour for Abu Dhabi to host something like that."

Playing with pink cricket balls in both one-day internationals and day-night Tests is one of the MCC's big ideas to shake up the game.


Trials with the pink ball, dyed with a pigment that does not wear off as quickly as with a white ball, began in the winter of 2007-08 and have gradually been stepped up.

The MCC wants to use them under lights in the May 2010 Lord's Test against Bangladesh, in what could be cricket's first day-night Test.

Not all counties have taken to pink balls readily. Durham are one of those opposed to the development, but they will be the county - with Steve Harmison leading the attack - who could take on the MCC in the desert next spring.

Lord's has been hosting the county opener since 1902, with the MCC team generally made up of young players on the fringes of national selection. But the match has often been tough viewing for spectators as it is regularly played in bitterly cold weather on flat pitches.

Next season it has to be fitted in before 8 April, several weeks before Abu Dhabi - currently hosting the one-day series between Pakistan and New Zealand - encounters extreme heat.

Keith Bradshaw, MCC's chief executive, told BBC Radio 5 live: "We now believe we have a pink ball ready for trialling which will hopefully last beyond 50 overs and behave as a red ball would in Test matches.

"We were hoping to use it in some of the county matches in the season just gone but weren't able to do so and we felt there was an opportunity to play in Abu Dhabi, at a beautiful stadium.

If we were to host the MCC, the fixture would attract a fair amount of support from Western ex-patriates

Dilawar Mani

"We believe the match would be a terrific basis to form an opinion of whether day-night Test cricket with a pink ball is possible.

"We need to look at the logistics, financially, in flying all the players across and we need to have an agreement with the England and Wales Cricket Board.

"But we are getting a very favourable response from the players."

Mani added: "We've had a number of four-day games here and we have more scheduled in the ICC's Intercontinental Cup.

"The match referee in Tuesday's match [in which Pakistan successfully defended 287-9 against New Zealand] told me he thought it was an excellent wicket.

"I'm sure, if we were to host the MCC, the fixture would attract a fair amount of support from Western expatriates."

A handful of English counties have played pre-season warm-ups in Abu Dhabi and neighbouring grounds in the Emirates for the past three years, and Mani said he was looking forward to them coming again next March.

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see also
MCC calls for Test championship
14 Jul 09 |  Cricket
Adams not convinced by pink ball
04 Sep 08 |  Hampshire
Pink ball makes debut at Lord's
21 Apr 08 |  Cricket
Pink balls set for one-day trials
13 Nov 07 |  Cricket
Pakistan make short work of Kiwis
03 Nov 09 |  Cricket

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