ABU DHABI // The start of the county cricket season is supposed to herald the beginning of summer, but the clocks have not even gone forward in the UK yet.
The opening fixture of the English campaign has been played in the UAE capital since 2010, usually in balmy conditions, using a pink ball under floodlights.
The latest installment, which started on Sunday between MCC and Yorkshire, has already had a very different feel, though.
Yorkshire, the champion county, had requested the match be played in the standard daytime hours, and using the conventional red ball, too.
There was a cooling breeze blowing across the ground, unlike the stifling conditions that often prevailed in seasons past.
And there were indications around the ground that suggested winter had been as harsh as might be expected in the UK rather than the UAE.
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This is the first match of note to be played here since last week’s storm in Abu Dhabi, which had a telling effect on the Zayed Cricket Stadium and its surrounds.
On the neighbouring academy ovals, the sightscreens which were blown down by the heavy winds still lie upended.
The one at the southernmost end remains upside down on the other side of the road adjacent to the ground, having smashed through the picket fence marking the field’s perimeter.
The main stadium has been marked, too. A sign on the grass bank on the western side lies grounded, leaving some substantial divots.
Parts of the television camera gantry at the North End have broken off and are hanging across the blue plastic seats.
And, despite all that, the groundsmen have provided enviable playing conditions for the two teams.
Presumably the majority of county professionals would be happy to play in this fixture, rather than whiling away the final weeks of pre-season in the frosty conditions back at home. It was 11 degrees in Leeds, where Yorkshire play home matches, on Sunday.
Gary Ballance is certainly feeling that way. Yorkshire’s No 3 posted the first century of a season which he hopes might contain a recall to the England ranks, as his side reached 275 in their first innings.
“Some of the guys have just been batting indoors for four or five months, and they are sick of that,” Ballance said.
“Being out here, having two weeks here, it is important for the whole squad to get a feel for playing on grass again. I think it is a good tradition to have.”
Ballance’s innings was ended on 105 when he fell lbw to Samit Patel, who toured here when England played Pakistan in three Tests at the end of 2015.
James Tredwell, another player who is attempting to catch the eye of England’s selectors again, was the pick of the MCC bowlers. He took three for 53 in 25 overs.
“It is great for us to be able to come out here and be able to play a first-class game now,” Tredwell said.
“It is good preparation for the first class season at home, so this is brilliant for us as part of our pre-season prep.”
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