Preview: Desert T20 Challenge UAE

January 10th 2017 | International


Preview: Desert T20 Challenge UAE

The Desert T20 Challenge is an inaugural T20 tournament in the UAE where there are eight Associate countries participating in the tournament. These include the Netherlands, Oman and Scotland.

The aim of the tournament is to provide an opportunity for Associate teams to play more competitive Men’s T20 cricket.

It will be a highly contested tournament, with the competition being played in the off season for most countries in the tournament and each of the participating countries are very close in ICC T20I rankings, so the quality of cricket is expected to be very strong.


This is the first time Ireland will have played competitive cricket since they hosted Hong Kong in a T20 Series in Bready. Jacob Mulder and Josh Little, who made their debuts for Ireland in that series, have kept their places in the squad for their tournament. Greg Thompson also keeps his spot in the side, after making a return to the Irish colours in the Hong Kong Series after an eight-year absence.

Stuart Thompson is in the touring party following his break from the international game, while Boyd Rankin (broken leg), and Balbirnie (hip) also return for the tour after their long term problems with a broken leg and a hip injury respectively.

There are chances for some individual achievements to be made on this tour, with George Dockrell is in line to make his 150th cap for Ireland. There is a chance for William Porterfield and Gary Wilson to achieve 50 T20I Caps, while Stuart Thompson could make his 50th cap for Ireland in the tournament.

Performance Director Richard Holdsworth feels that fixtures like this during the off season will benefit the side: “Competition for our senior teams at this time of the year is so important, as often we are back home training in cold indoor conditions.  The only context we have in T20 internationals is a World T20 Qualifier or the main World T20 itself, so all the Associate high performance countries agreed last year that we needed more opportunities to play high pressurised cricket with context, and hence the establishment of the Desert T20.  We have had several players out injured in 2016, so it will be a great opportunity for them to get out in warm conditions and compete at a high level.

“We have not fared too well in this format recently, so more experience in playing especially with a number of new players is key to developing this squad.  We have had a number of ODI matches against the top 6/7 in the world in the last year, and this is a very tough and steep learning curve for new less experienced players, therefore to give them opportunities to play against the next tier is key to their development.  We have lost to several of these sides in recent years and so the competition will be very tough, but a great chance for our players to cement a place towards qualification for the next World T20.  We are very grateful to the Emirates Cricket Board for agreeing to organise the event.”

Ireland has been drawn in Group A with Afghanistan, Namibia and the hosts UAE. This will be the first time Ireland will have played Afghanistan since the controversial tied ODI Series held in Ireland during the summer. It could also be a preview of what is to come when Ireland plays the same side in 5 ODIs, 3 T20Is and an ICup match in India in March. If Ireland progress out of their group, they will play their semi final in a format that is similar to that of the T20 Blast Finals Day in England, where both semi finals and final are played on the same day. All of this will be in Dubai International Cricket Stadium on the 20th January. Ireland are playing a warm up match against the Bukhatir XI this morning. This side is made up of employees from the Bukhatir Group and of players from the Sharjah Cricket Academy.

Key Player - Andrew Balbirnie

Balbirnie returns to the Irish side after a hip injury he suffered in the ICC World T20 in March of last year. He has been playing in Sydney with Randwick Petersham CC up until Christmas, under the Cricket Ireland Scholarship Scheme. He will hope to return to the form we saw him in at the ICC World Cup 2015 in Australia and New Zealand, where he made half centuries against Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Tournament Information

Date: Jan 14-20, 2017.

Venues:  Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi.
                Dubai International Cricket Stadium.


William Porterfield (captain) (Warwickshire), Andrew Balbirnie (Pembroke/Leinster Lightning), George Dockrell (Leinster/Leinster Lightning), Josh Little (Pembroke/Leinster Lightning), Jacob Mulder (CIYMS/Northern Knights), Andrew McBrine (Donemana/NW Warriors), Barry McCarthy (Durham/Leinster Lightning), Kevin O’Brien (Railway Union/Leinster Lightning), Boyd Rankin (Warwickshire), Paul Stirling (Middlesex), Greg Thompson (Waringstown, Northern Knights), Stuart Thompson (Eglinton/NW Warriors), Gary Wilson (Derbyshire), Craig Young (Bready/NW Warriors).


14th Jan –Afghanistan v Ireland
Time: 3pm.
Venue: Abu Dhabi Cricket Club’s Zayed Cricket Stadium

17th Jan – Ireland v Namibia
Time: 10am.
Venue: Abu Dhabi Cricket Club’s Zayed Cricket Stadium

18th Jan – UAE v Ireland
Time: 10am.
Venue: Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City

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