Afghanistan bowler Rashid Khan has heaped praise on the "amazing" facilities at Abu Dhabi Cricket and hopes his team's familiarity of the UAE, and large fanbase in the nation, can boost their chances at the T20 World Cup.
Following on from the opening night in Oman on Sunday, where the co-hosts defeated Papua New Guinea by 10 wickets, the first round action got underway in Abu Dhabi on Monday, with Ireland beating the Netherlands at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.
Namibia then made their T20 World Cup debut in defeat to Sri Lanka, while Afghanistan, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia all played official warm-up matches at the venue’s renovated Tolerance Oval.
It meant that as Curtis Campher took four wickets in four balls to help Ireland to victory over Netherlands in the first game of the day, South Africa captain Temba Bavuma was setting the tone for his side’s 41-run win against Afghanistan at the same time - just a few hundred metres away.
The latter was the first full T20 international to be played at the revamped Tolerance Oval and while Afghanistan leg-spinner Khan may not have been pleased with the result, he could not fault the facilities.
“The wicket has been amazing, the ground and everything is quite amazing and I think these oval grounds add a lot to the main Zayed Cricket Stadium,” he said.
“The best thing today was that there were eight international teams all playing in this area. It’s been great so far and every time we come to Abu Dhabi, we see something changing and some new facilities, which is something aiding Zayed Cricket Stadium. We absolutely love this whole facility.”
Afghanistan play three of their five Super 12 matches in Abu Dhabi, including a tantalising showdown with India at Zayed Cricket Stadium on Wednesday, November 3.
The UAE has been a home away from home for Khan and his teammates down the years and with a large community of Afghans in the country, the 23-year-old bowler believes their knowledge of the venue, and support in the stands, can serve as an advantage.
Abu Dhabi's Tolerance Oval cricket grounds - in pictures
“Whenever we’ve played here before the pandemic, we’ve had lots of support,” he said. “That’s something we are expecting in this World Cup as well, that they will come and support their Blue Tigers.
“We as a team will do our best to give them the best performance and make them as proud as possible. Their support will be essential.”
The Monday evening games saw Namibia lose to Sri Lanka on the main ground, while Kane Williamson’s New Zealand were beaten by old rivals Australia on the Tolerance Oval.
In the second set of Group A fixtures at Zayed Cricket Stadium on Wednesday, Namibia take on Netherlands and Ireland face Sri Lanka, while England play New Zealand and Pakistan square off against South Africa on the Tolerance Oval.
All warm-up matches are being played without supporters in attendance. Tickets are available for the full T20 World Cup games in Abu Dhabi. Tickets start from Dh40 for Round 1 matches and from Dh50 for the Super 12 fixtures.