The Emirates Airline Twenty20 Trophy, established as the premier English county pre-season tournament, gets underway this weekend as a host of international superstars prepare to square-up against some recognisable faces.
Sri-Lanka's Prasanna Jayawardene is one of those players looking forward to reuniting with an old friend, with legendary team-mate Muttiah Muralitharan joining him in the MCC's select XI for the tournament.
Jayawardene, who is widely seen as a Test-specialist, and has been rated by many as one of the cleanest glovemen to have come out of the Emerald Isle, said: “Just looking at the schedule and the line-ups, I think this is going to be a tough tournament, certainly not a hit-and-giggle affair.
"Personally, I’m really looking forward to playing alongside my former Sri Lanka team-mate Muttiah Muralitharan. I’ve missed him a lot over the past couple of years, ever since he hung up his boots. He’s a true legend, and I’m sure it will be a real privilege and honour for the crowds at the Sevens to see him in action,” he added.
England's Matt Prior, struggling for form and desperate for the runs he needs to reclaim his England spot, will have the more enviable task of taking on a good friend and team-mate when his Sussex side open the day's proceedings against England team-mate James Anderson's Lancashire.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, wicket-keeper Prior said: “I’m really excited, and looking forward to this tournament. Just the other day the boys were ribbing me about not being able to remember the last time I turned out for Sussex in the pre-season.
“I think it’s going to be a fantastic experience playing here against some top-quality opposition. For me, personally, the thrill of facing up to my England mate Jimmy Anderson is something to look forward to,” he added.
“We have a tremendous line-up of players coming to Dubai for what promises to be a festival of cricket for the whole family,” said Tournament Director Matthew Jackson. "There will be autograph opportunities and other fun activities on offer, while families can also relax in comfort as they watch their heroes in action.
"As the tournament grows in stature and attendance each year, we are always pleased to see the number of families and children attending, as we hope to inspire the next generation of cricket players and spectators while watching the cricket legends in Dubai."
Sheikh Majid Al Mualla –Divisional Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations – Emirates, said: “We are again looking forward to the tournament playing host to some of cricket’s most famous names. We welcome the MCC, Lancashire and Sussex back to compete for the coveted Emirates Airline Twenty20 trophy, and would also like to welcome a new competitor this year, the Dubai based Kerala Premier League XI side.
“The event is now a popular fixture on the cricketing calendar, attracting cricket greats and their fans, while generating a wonderful sporting atmosphere at the Sevens. We hope that events such as this inspire spectators and young cricketers to enjoy and succeed in the sport.”
Spectators will also have the opportunity to get the autographs of some of the legends of the game, with Muralitharan, Jayawardene, Monty Panesar, Virender Sehwag, Samit Patel, and Andre Adams all appearing for autograph sessions between 11.30 -12.30, and Virender Sehwag, Prior and James Anderson also appearing at 2.30 pm.
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