English cricket clubs Essex and Somerset are in Abu Dhabi for an 11-day training camp ahead of the new County season and will play each other in several matches during their stays in the capital.
Both teams arrived in the UAE last weekend and will play each other in two T20 matches, a 45-over game and a two-day fixture. The T20 games will be a double-header at the Tolerance Oval on Friday, played at 2.30pm and 6.30pm, with the second of those games broadcast live via Abu Dhabi Cricket's YouTube channel.
Essex captain 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," Cook said. "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."
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."
Somerset's current England international Tom Banton also has fond memories of the UAE, having lifted the Abu Dhabi T10 trophy with Deccan Gladiators at the end of last year. Like Cook, the right-handed opener is pleased to be back in the UAE for a big year ahead.
"I'm back here in Abu Dhabi for the third year in a row," Banton said. "I've been here with several different franchises and every year it seems to get better and better and the boys love it here.
"The last time we were here, for the Abu Dhabi T10, we managed to win the competition with the Deccan Gladiators, which was probably one of my highlights over the last few years so I'm really looking forward to getting going."