The England men's Test team concluded their preparations for the upcoming tour of Pakistan this week, with a seven-day red-ball camp at Abu Dhabi Cricket & Sports Hub.
England used the camp at Abu Dhabi's premier multi sports venue as the pre-cursor to their historic return to Pakistan after a 17-year absence.
It gave captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum the chance to get their side up to speed after a memorable few months for English cricket.
Appointed as captain and coach, respectively, of the Test team last summer, Stokes and McCullum led somewhat of a red-ball revolution in fixtures against New Zealand, India and South Africa.
Stokes then went on to be the hero as England lifted the ICC Men's T20 World Cup in Australia last month, where they beat Pakistan in the final.
The 31-year-old was grateful to now have the opportunity to switch back into Test cricket mode thanks to the red-ball camp in Abu Dhabi.
"We've been very lucky to be able to come out here to Abu Dhabi and use the facilities here before we head to Pakistan," said Stokes on the outskirts of the Tolerance Oval, which played host to a warm-up match between England and their England Lions counterparts.
"We've been very spoilt," he continued. "The [Abu Dhabi Cricket & Sports Hub] facilities here are of one of the highest quality that I can remember since being out here [in the UAE]. We've got the amazing net facilities out the back and then with all the squares, to be able to have a practice game between the Test team and the Lions has been really good so hopefully we can come back here in the future as well."
England have won six out of seven Tests under Stokes, who is now looking forward to the upcoming challenge of skippering his country in an away series for the first time.
"I'm very excited," said Stokes of the upcoming assignment. "The summer went really well for us in conditions that I know, and we all know as a team, so it's exciting to come away somewhere completely different in sub-continent conditions where whatever team tours finds it very difficult. It's going to be completely different to the summer."
Stokes and his side were able to prepare for Pakistan pitches by playing on wickets at Abu Dhabi Cricket & Sports Hub that replicate conditions in the country, and the England captain believes that kind of attention to detail will mean they hit the ground running this winter.
"We've got everything available to us," added Stokes. "The nets out back have got different types of surfaces because we're not quite sure what we're going to get in Pakistan in terms of wickets.
"We've been lucky to have some wickets that do a bit and some wickets that are a bit drier to help the lads prepare for the challenges that the spinners will present so it's been really good."
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