The country's top cricketers will be in action when the Carpetland Ramadan Twenty20 Cup starts in Abu Dhabi on Friday. The likes of Khurram Khan, the UAE captain, Saqib Ali and Amjad Javed will strut their stuff in the fifth staging of the 20-team competition which carries a prize of Dh20,000 for the winning team. Eurocon Alubond may not be fielding Pakistan internationals Taufeeq Umar, Hasan Raza, Nasir Jamshed and Mohammed Sami this year but they still look the strongest team. They will complement Naeemuddin Aslam, Zahid Shah and Vikrant Shetty, their three UAE internationals, with Pakistan first-class cricketers Mohammed Azam, Shiraz Butt and Mohammed Hanif.
"They are specialist players in the shortest format of the game and will add more muscle to our team," Zulfiqar Ahmed, the captain, said. Yogi Group have a good record in the competition and have fielded Dilhara Lokuhettige and Hasantha Fernando, who have represented Sri Lanka in one-day internationals in the past, but they are yet to decide on their imports this year. The teams are drawn in four groups and the top two from each will advance to the knockout round. Nissan Al Masaood face United Bank Limited in the opening game on Friday at 8pm at the Zayed Cricket Stadium and two matches are scheduled from there onwards until the final on September 9.
"It is usually a late September start after the curtains come down in May in a season, but cricket now revolves around the full year and there are enough and more teams, ever willing to play," said Wajahat Husain, president of the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council. Shadeep Silva, the UAE left-arm spinner, who plays for New Medical Centre, said: "It is not new that we play during the summer months, and this shorter format of the game played in the night under lights is being looked forward by all the players."
Meanwhile, the first Dubai Sports City Ramadan T-20 Cup gets underway at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium from August 24 to September 2, featuring eight teams. * With agencies