I’m high in the sky in Abu Dhabi – in the media centre to be exact. Way down below, Nottinghamshire’s last pair have just taken their total past 100 against MCC. Oh, there goes Jake Ball, poking at the Headband – Hamid Hassan (pictured) – and being caught at slip.
Beyond this green oasis I can see sand and shrubs. To the left are a cluster of beige residential blocks characterised by arched entranced ways. Straight ahead some non-descript buildings and lots of cranes. The motto of the UAE government must be ‘Construction! Construction! Construction!’
Certainly some of these batsmen could add a bit of construction to their innings. Eighteen wickets fell to the pink ball yesterday. Yes, the bowling was good (and fast). Yes, the ball moved around, particularly under the lights. Yes, there was a tinge of green. But it wasn’t that bad.
The local groundsman, 39-year-old Madhav Pathak from Nepal, isn’t letting the batsmen off. “They see green and get worried,” he told me shortly before day two. “It’s in the head. They should be getting 350 at least.” Has he told Rahul Dravid, author of the first duck of the sort-of English 2011 season yesterday?
Madhav, who was delighted when Nepal came to play here (and won) a couple of years ago, thinks they’ll be lots more runs from now on. He points out that the pitch next door – even greener in outlook – yielded a first-innings total of 500 in a very recent MCC Junior match.
Mind, they didn’t have to face Steve Kirby, Hamid Hassan and Toby-Roland Jones. (That Hamid is seriously quick, and there are rumours here that phone-calls have been made to some counties after yesterday.)
For Ian Jones, the splatter of wickets yesterday was no good thing. Ian and his wife have travelled all the way from Yorkshire to get the first sight of the season. They are two of a dozen spectators here. “Ball moved around too much,” says Ian. “Ruined the match, didn’t it.”
Well, Ian, Madhav reckons you might see some more runs today. MCC have just begun their innings and Dravid will surely not fail twice.
Then again, it tends to hoop as day turns to night, as the Zayed International Stadium becomes one brilliant green blaze in the middle of the dark desert.
Benj Moorehead is editorial assistant of The Wisden Cricketer