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2013 to be Aussie, Aussie, Aussie for the UK

Rivals face hat-trick of clashes in year set to be dominated by cricket

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Dubai: One of the oldest sporting rivalries in the world takes centre stage in 2013, as the UK takes on Australia in a trio of hotly-anticipated contests.

Cricket will be the source of most of the conflict between the two nations as, with organisers looking to change the rotation of the usually biennial Ashes, an unprecedented two series have been scheduled for this year.

Michael Clarke’s men will be out for revenge for their 3-1 humiliation on home soil in 2010/11 in England in July and August, before the modern-day Captain Cook – England skipper Alastair – looks to reclaim the Antipodes in November and December.

But the Aussies and Poms will also battle it out on the rugby field in 2013, when the British & Irish Lions tour Australia in June and July, looking for their first series win over any opposition since a 1997 triumph in South Africa.

After seeing 2012 dominated by the likes of the Olympic Games and European Football Championships, cricket will once again be king in 2013 as, aside from the Ashes, the sport also boasts the Champions Trophy competition in England in June, a Women’s ODI World Cup in India in January and February, the sixth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and plenty of other fascinating tours, including Australia in India and Pakistan in South Africa.

Indian fans are bracing themselves for the end of an era this year, as Sachin Tendulkar is widely expected to bring his international career to an end.

The 39-year-old all-time leading run-scorer has already retired from the One Day Internationals, and it’s possible the Master Blaster could also quit the Test scene following the four-match series against

In football, Spain will have the opportunity to extend their invincible run – they have won their last three major championships – when they travel to Brazil for June’s Confederations Cup. Vicente del Bosque’s side will be the strong favourites to win the eight-team tournament, which also features the host nation, Uruguay, Mexico, Japan and Italy.

The winners of the African Cup of Nations tournament, which takes place in South Africa from January 19 to February 10, and OFC Nations Cup champions Tahiti will complete the line-up. The event is likely to provide a stern test of Brazil’s ability to host big sporting events, with the 2014 Fifa World Cup and 2016 Rio Olympics on the horizon.

Stiff competition

It will also give new manager Luiz Felipe Scolari an opportunity to run the rule over his young side and determine their competitiveness as the Selecao have only been involved in friendly games of late as they qualify for the World Cup as hosts. Zambia were the shock winners of last year’s African Cup of Nations, but they will face some stiff competition from hosts South Africa, Ghana and perennial underachievers Ivory Coast if they are to hang on to their crown.

The Elephants have boasted a “golden generation” for the best part of a decade, with the likes of Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Didier Zokora gracing the side, and will be hoping to finally bring home the trophy for the first time in 20 years.

Some of the biggest stars of London 2012 will be back in serious action in August, when the World Athletics Championships take place in Moscow. Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, David Rudisha et al will all have the weight of expectation on them following their success at last summer’s Games.

The UAE’s bid for sporting glory starts early in 2013, with the national football team looking to win the Gulf Cup tournament in Bahrain, which kicks off on January 5, while the horseracing world’s eyes will once again fall on the nation for the Dubai World Cup at Meydan on March 30.

Dubai’s own Godolphin stable won last year’s race thanks to Monterosso and jockey Mickael Barzalona, and they will bid for glory again in the world’s richest horse race this year.

The country also has the honour of hosting the Fifa Under-17 World Cup in October and November, when 23 nations from six continental competitions will join the UAE for the 23-day competition.

Abu Dhabi will hold its fifth annual Formula 1 Grand Prix at Yas Marina circuit on November 3, while the top golfers in the world will land in the UAE for the HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club this month as well as the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates GC from January 28 to February 3.

Top-class tennis will also return to these shores for the Dubai Duty Free Championships, with the women in action from February 18-23 and the men from February 25 to March 2.