South North Junior Trip to Dubai

6th Apr 2020

During the February half-term (which feels like years ago!), we took a mixed group of our juniors to the United Arab Emirates for hopefully the first of many South North Young Bulls overseas tours. Under 13 George McConnell has given us a run-down on what was an amazing trip!:

After much anticipation, it was half term and we were off on our Emirates flight from Newcastle to Dubai on the under 14 club tour of the United Arab Emirates.  After a smooth flight, we went to our hotel the Radisson Blu in Ajman, one of the less well-known emirates about a half hours drive from Dubai, arriving there at about 3am.

On the first day, there were no matches scheduled so after a morning spent around the pool we were collected by a fleet of Land cruisers and taken to the edge of the desert. Once the tyres were deflated the drivers took us dune buggying. This involved going on a dune buggy where we went over some massive sand dunes. We stopped at two places during the ride - the sunset camp and the main camp. The sunset camp was a place where we sat on one of the dunes watching the dazzling sun go down. Then after the sun went down we went to main camp. This had many fun activities we could do such as having a picture taken with an eagle on your arm, riding on a camel and sand boarding down a sand dune. After that we went to the food buffet to get some Middle Eastern food followed by some belly dancing and a fire show.

The next day was cricket time, start of our 5-match series! Playing in the United Arab Emirates is like playing cricket in India. There is so much spin but because we were in the middle of the desert there was no moisture in the air so the ball didn’t swing. The pitches were also very hard so if you bowled a short ball it would stay very low unlike in the UK where the ball does bounce. We needed to tweak our bowling to bowl a good full length so we didn’t get hit over the boundary!

The first team we played was a warm up match against a local school called Kings Academy. The match started after school and ran into the evening after sunset. Kings academy were a tough team to play due to them having two very good aggressive strike batsmen. One of them just tried to slog every ball and did so until he got caught out but their other leading batsman was a bit of a silent assassin. He started to take control of the game and ended his innings with about 47 runs. They amassed a total of about 180 - our plan from the start was to chase down such a total. However, the game slipped away from us; we were all out and it was a first win to the opposition. Playing under flood lights was hard because there is always a beam of light in your eyes which really annoys you. The lights reach about 25 meters high and there was 1 of them in every corner of the pitch. The next couple of games came to the same result - we lost. We won the last game due to some great seventh wicket slogging.  It was a great feeling to win one of the games.  Some of the games we played, we played them at some very famous cricket grounds. Sharjah International stadium has a 17,000-seat capacity and has seen the likes of big name players like Sachin Tendulkar play there. The fixtures we played there was against another English touring side from the Tiffin school in Surrey. This was an early afternoon fixture and it was horribly hot! When we got a wicket some of the adults and children who came on tour with us ran onto the pitch to give us a much-appreciated bottle of water. The second most well-known venue we went to was called the ICC Academy in Dubai. It’s probably the nicest place to play cricket in the UAE and was the venue for episode 2 In the amazon prime television series The Test where it was used as a training base for the Australian cricket team during their tour of the UAE before their first test against Pakistan.

In between matches there was an opportunity to reflect on the games and how we could improve as individuals and as a team. This was a great opportunity for some top-quality match play and tactical feedback from Steve and the other coaches. Days off included trips to the Wild Wadi waterpark, canoeing in the coastal mangroves and to see the Burj Al Arab, the tallest building in the world! The rest of the time was relaxing around the pool and making new friends. It was a great trip and I would love to do it all over again!

George McConnell


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