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The United Arab Emirates play cricket to a high level. While they are an official ODI and T20i playing nation, they have yet to earn full ICC status as yet, but many of their grounds are certainly significant.
The UAE has stepped in on occasions to cover hosting duties under different circumstances. The Indian Premier League, test matches and one day internationals have all been played here, with various reasons why those games had to be played on neutral ground.
Let’s take a look at the conditions under which the UAE has stepped in, while we discuss the best cricket stadiums here.
Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium
Those based outside of the UAE may be more familiar with this ground than any others in the region. The Sharjah Cricket Association has covered several IPL games, together with test matches and one day internationals.
The ground also hosted matches in the T20 World Cup in 2021, when the tournament had to be moved from Australia due to travel restrictions.
The Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium was opened in 1982 and the first one day international to be played here took place two years later when Pakistan took on Sri Lanka. As they sought to play on neutral territory, Pakistan have been regular visitors to Sharjah, and they also played in the stadium’s first test match against the West Indies in 2002.
The capacity here is a healthy 16,000, and it’s almost certain that the Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium will continue to host neutral international cricket moving forward.
Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium
Based in Abu Dhabi, the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium was also part of the circuit for the 2021 T20 World Cup. It’s covered IPL games and is one of the best grounds in the UAE.
The facility was opened in 2004 with a view to becoming one of the most important cricket stadiums in the region. With two large stands behind the straight boundaries and additional seating via grass banks, the capacity can extend up to 20,000.
The Sheikh Zayed Stadium was first used for a One Day International when Pakistan faced India here in 2006. At the start of 2010, the first T20i took place, and the ground hosted its first test match in the same year.
While it remains as one of the regular grounds for the UAE national team, the Sheikh Zayed Stadium is ready for more neutral hosting duties in the years to come.
Dubai International Cricket Stadium
The third venue to host test matches in the UAE is the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. Opened in 2009 in the heart of Dubai Sports City, it’s also the biggest ground in the region with a capacity that can extend up to 25,000.
It’s been another semi-regular venue for the IPL and the Dubai stadium was also part of that 2021 World Cup. April 2009 first saw international cricket arrive here as Pakistan hosted Australia in an ODI.
A T20 International arrived in the following month and then, a year later, Pakistan faced South Africa in the stadium’s first test match.
The Dubai International Cricket Stadium’s biggest honour to date came in 2021, when it hosted Australia and New Zealand in the final of the T20 World Cup.
ICC Academy Ground
While it has yet to host test cricket, the ICC Academy Ground has seen a number of limited overs internationals take place. It’s also located in Dubai and forms part of the vast Sports City complex that is located here.
It was constructed in 2009 and first saw international cricket when Canada and Kenya played out an ODI in 2013. A year later, the ICC Academy Ground was used during the 2014 Under 19 World Cup.
While it’s still available as a neutral ground, the ICC Academy facility is mostly utilized by the United Arab Emirates men’s and women’s teams.
Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium
While this ground no longer comes under the radar of the UAE national team, it was one of the most important grounds in the country’s cricket history. Based in Abu Dhabi, the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium was opened in 1979 and it was always intended to be a multi-sport facility.
While football has tended to dominate throughout the history of this ground, it was considered an ideal spot for a series of list A cricket matches between reserve sides of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in 1999.
An original capacity of 15,000 has been steadily expanded, and the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium can boast a record attendance of 68,000 for a football match in 2016. Football is the main focus now, but this ground has excellent facilities if cricket wants to return.
Ajman International Cricket Stadium
Informally known as the Ajman Oval, this stadium has yet to be used for neutral internationals, but it’s an important venue for the UAE national team. While a smaller capacity of 5,000 prevents this location from hosting major matches, it’s still the largest cricket facility in Ajman.
Opened in 2014, the Ajman International Cricket Stadium holds minor matches for the UAE and it’s also been used as a venue for Afghanistan in the past. While the bigger stadiums in the region will get to hold the official internationals, the Ajman Oval plays its part in the UAE’s cricketing story.
Another cricket ground based in Abu Dhabi, the Tolerance Oval was vital in the development years of UAE cricket. Until the bigger stadiums came along, this was a regular home for the national team.
The Tolerance Oval was formally opened in 2018, and it began to host international cricket almost immediately. The first official T20 International took place in October of that year as the UAE took on Australia.
More men’s and women’s T20is followed, but the Tolerance Oval has yet to host a One Day International. With bigger stadiums now available to UAE cricket, it’s likely to be overlooked as a major sporting facility.
Dubai Cricket Council Grounds
The remaining stadiums that had a major influence on UAE cricket are located in Dubai. They are owned by the Dubai Cricket Council, and they are simply known as Ground One and Ground Two.
The two stadiums first began to host important cricket matches when they were chosen as venues for the 2000 Asian Cricket Council Trophy tournament. A little later, Ground One and Ground Two were named as venues for Champions Trophy qualifying rounds in 2004/05.
These facilities have also suffered since bigger stadiums have been put in place, but they remain in use for minor cricket matches.
Those are the major cricket grounds in the United Arab Emirates, but a number of other stadiums have been used previously. The Sevens Stadium in Dubai is primarily used for rugby, but it has hosted cricket among a number of other sports.
Elsewhere, Al Dhaid is one of the smaller Emirates, but it also has its own cricket complex. Al Dhaid Cricket Village has a capacity of 5,000, and it also has floodlights installed, so it is capable of hosting day/night games.
There are lots of options for cricket’s governing body in the UAE, although the bigger capacity grounds currently dominate the sport.
The UAE is a region where significant investment is available to develop sport in the country. The ultimate goal would surely be for the United Arab Emirates to be admitted as a full member nation of the ICC, and to compete in test matches around the world.
It is debatable whether that will happen, but the country definitely has the infrastructure in place. In fact, it’s the only non-test playing nation to have hosted test matches, and no other associate member is likely to challenge that position moving forward.
In short, there are some magnificent cricket stadiums in the United Arab Emirates, and the country now needs a more competitive team to back them up.