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Cracking the Dubai code of success

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Last updated on 24 Oct 2021 | 09:56 AM
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Cracking the Dubai code of success

After England-West Indies' clash, cracking the Dubai code of success was a real necessity

Out of the three venues – Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi – Dubai has been one of the most consistent wickets for high-quality games, with the venue serving as the host for back-to-back IPL finals. Despite the conditions drying up in the Middle East, Dubai was one of the only venues to not have an absurd impact, making it one of the most even surfaces for a quality match. 

Since 2020, when the Middle East sort of became synonymous with franchise cricket, be it the Pakistan Super League or the Indian Premier League, Dubai has been a key venue. At the venue, the average first innings score has been 166 in the last two years. However, the winning score at an average has been 178, which shows how true the conditions have been for teams chasing down the total. 

Out of the 39 matches at the venue, 20 matches have been won by sides batting first, with 19 wins for the teams chasing down totals. In 2020, only 30.8% of the captains who won the toss, ended up on the winning side. However, the trend has taken a curve in 2021, where 53.8% of the captains have succeeded with their choices, with Kolkata Knight Riders being on the other side of the curve

Batting first is a genuine curse

The trend has shown that batting first was a fad in 2020, when 16 teams out of the 26 games won batting first, which always equates to scoreboard pressure. However, in 2021, the trend shows that the team batting second have won nine out of the 13 games, showing that chasing is the new bat first. However, if the teams are put to bat first at the venue, they will have to look at 175 as the magic number. 

175 has been the average first innings winning score, in 2021. When Chennai Super Kings in the IPL final was well beyond the magical figure, they ended up on the winning side, something that teams put to bat first must realize. Batting first isn’t fashionable but batting first doesn’t equal to losing. 

In 2020, the batting pattern was simple: 46.9 runs on average in the powerplay, at 7.8, with a boundary every 5.2 delivery. In the middle-overs (7-15), the average runs read 69.9, at 7.7, with 7.8 balls in between two boundaries. And in the death, the batters have scored 54.7 runs, at 10.8, scoring a boundary every 4.6th delivery. 

However, in 2021, batting first has proven to be a fatal task at the venue, with initial movement for the bowlers troubling the batters, as indicated by the drop in the scoring rate. Teams have simply not liked to bat first, with only 44.9 runs in the powerplay, at 7.4, with a boundary every 5.5th delivery. 

The decline continues in the middle-overs, where only 64.2 runs have been scored, at 7.1 with 9.3 balls between two boundaries. At the death, teams have scored 47.2 runs, at 9.4, with 5.4 balls for every boundary. 

Chasing is an easy way out

If batting first was a fad in the year 2020, 2021 has seen chasing becoming the cheat code. Teams that have chased in 2020, have struggled across the board. In the powerplay, only 44.2 runs were scored on average, at 7.4, with a boundary every 5.9 deliveries. In the middle-phase, 66.5 runs, at 7.4 RR and a boundary every 8.2 deliveries. 

At the death, that figure points at just 39.9 runs, at 9.1 RR, with a boundary every 5.3 deliveries. In 2021, there was a massive upgrade, across the board, as the teams scored at a steady run-rate across the overs, 8 to begin with, 7.5 in the middle-overs before striking at 9.3 in the death. 

Chasing has become easy, an easy way out for the sides. Batting under lights has become easy, with the ball not aiding the bowlers, with literally no swing. But what happens when you are against the tide, against the wave to say?

Cheat code when you have to bat first

While chasing or bowling first is the most ideal position to be in Dubai, what do the teams do when they are on the other side of the spectrum. Easy, follow the CSK template from the final. Even though chasing is easy, scoreboard pressure is scoreboard pressure at the end of the day. On the night, Chennai scored 50 runs in the powerplay, losing no wicket.

At an average, teams that have won here batting first, have scored 44.8 runs, losing just the 1.5 wickets, at 7.4 RR, with a boundary every five deliveries. At the 15th over mark, Chennai were at 131/2, with 81 runs scored in the overs 7-15, which is 6.5 runs more than average, losing 0.5 wickets more than average. 

61 runs in the last five overs, which is again ahead of the curve, by six runs, losing just the one wicket, again ahead of the curve. Chennai pretty much showed how to bat oppositions out if teams are put into batting first, in Dubai. 

Spin or pace – which gets the nod?

Appalling in comparison with the other venues in the Middle East, Dubai has been the most pace-friendly venue. In Dubai, out of the 80 wickets taken this year, 57 have been scalps for the pacers, accounting for 71.3% of the dismissals. Only 28.8% of the wickets (23) have been taken by spinners, showing that it isn’t the most ideal venue to have a bowling attack full of spin.

Now that’s where India might face an issue, they have a squad that is filled with spinners. But more importantly, India have three out of the top ten pacers at the venue this year in the squad. Shardul Thakur has picked up the most wickets amongst the others in the squad, with nine wickets in Dubai, at an average of 16 and an economy rate of 8. 

Mohammed Shami, on the other hand, has picked up five wickets, at 13.2, conceding just 5.5 RPO at the venue. Bumrah isn’t far behind, with the same number of wickets as Shami but at 13.8 and an economy rate of 8.6, slightly on the higher side. Amongst the spinners who have excelled at the venue, Jadeja-Chakravarthy have nine wickets in between, showing that India have a squad perfect for the conditions. 

Catch is the call

Dubai isn’t the worst venue to field but ironically, it has the most drops in this year’s IPL, with 29 catches dropped at the venue. However, the catch efficiency shows that 80.10% of the catches usually are gobbled by the fielders, unless you are in that rare percent, like MS Dhoni in the IPL final or the spider-cam.

In comparison to the other two venues in the Middle East, Dubai ranks second in terms of catch efficiency, showing that it won’t be a tough venue for the fielders. 

What to expect?    

Plenty of captains choosing to chase at the venue, plenty of catches being safely poached by the fielders and for sure, plenty of runs during chases. And, not to forget, it would be a happy hunting ground for pacers, which can make this one of the best venues in the Middle East, where there is an equal contest between the bat and the ball, unlike Sharjah or Abu Dhabi. 

*Note: All statistics are updated before England's clash against the West Indies

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