Abu Dhabi [UAE], March 10 (ANI): Essex County Cricket Club and Somerset County Cricket Club are stepping up their preparations for the new county season with an 11-day high-performance camp at Abu Dhabi Cricket.
The pair touched down at the multi-sports hub at the weekend and will play each other in two T20 matches, a 45-over game and a two-day fixture during their stay. The T20 games will be in the form of a double-header at the Tolerance Oval on Friday.
Essex captain Sir Alastair Cook leads his team's trip to the UAE capital, returning to a venue that holds great memories for the former England skipper. Cook scored his second-highest score in Test cricket by making 263 against Pakistan at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in 2015 and also represented Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in the County Champion match at the same ground earlier that year.
"It's always great to come back to place where you scored runs. When you've played one of those innings, you look back on them with great fondness. The facilities here are fantastic, we're incredibly well looked after by everyone and, for us as a county, it's served us really well," said Cook in a statement.
"We notice every time we come back that [Abu Dhabi Cricket] gets bigger and better. It's an incredible project and it's a sports village now. You'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere in the world a facility in a few years' time that caters for as many sports," he added.
Cook hopes that putting in the "hard yards" during their pre-season stint in Abu Dhabi will aid Essex's bid for glory back home, adding: "We get 12 to 13 days of fantastic facilities, fantastic practice and we're outside! There's only so much we can do back in Chelmsford and it feels like you can get an advantage by being here. We feel as if we've got a good squad and that we can compete in all three tournaments. We've won some trophies recently but we didn't last year and we hope to get back up there."
The visit of eight-time County Championship winners Essex and inaugural T20 Blast champions Somerset marks the return of major international hosting at Abu Dhabi Cricket. Both County teams will not only play four games on matches at the Tolerance Oval and Mohan's Oval but also make use of the 20 international nets and state-of-the-art Bodyline gym that sit on the same site.
It comes just two weeks after Abu Dhabi Cricket Council launched its new strategic vision for community cricket in the emirate and the capability to serve both top-tier professional cricket and all aspects of the domestic game highlights the versatility of the facility.
"It's always a thrill to have players of the highest calibre be with us at Abu Dhabi Cricket and to have them mixing with our Abu Dhabi community at the same time creates a real buzz around the venue," said Abu Dhabi Cricket CEO Matt Boucher.
"Abu Dhabi Cricket continues to prove more than capable of catering for both and the presence of Essex and Somerset, as well as their top professionals like Alastair Cook give our Zayed Cricket Academy kids ideal role models to look up to when they come and share the same facilities as their heroes," he added. (ANI)