The Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi promises to be the least batting-friendly venue in this year’s IPL. In 93 T20 matches hosted there since 2010, the overall run rate is just 7.03 runs per over, the lowest of the trio of grounds set to host matches across the tournament. The low scoring rate in Abu Dhabi is the product of a difficult pitch for batting and a very large playing area. No venue in the world to have hosted more than 50 T20 matches has a higher four to six ratio than Abu Dhabi’s 3.95 fours per six, illustrating the challenge of clearing the ropes at what is a very big ground.
Spinners in particular have enjoyed conditions there, with the large playing area contributing to an overall economy rate of just 6.68 for spin bowlers, the third lowest of any ground to have hosted 50+ T20s.
Despite spinners generally enjoying conditions in Abu Dhabi, the pitch itself has surprisingly not offered as much deviation as the other two venues, with the average turn on offer a fraction above 2°. That’s a lower figure than all of the regular IPL grounds in India so we may see spinners find success through the slow, low nature of the pitch rather than any prodigious turn on offer, given that the PitchViz pace rating for spinners at Abu Dhabi is just 4.1, the eighth lowest in world cricket.
The nature of all the pitches in the UAE means we are unlikely to see teams get off to fast starts and that particularly applies to Abu Dhabi. Of grounds to have hosted 50 or more T20 matches, only Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain and St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth have a lower overall run rate in the first six overs, while both Dubai and Sharjah also feature in the top 20 of that list.
Abu Dhabi also has the lowest boundary percentage (11.96%) of any ground to have hosted 50 or more T20 matches and in the last five years, the average winning score when batting first has been significantly lower than the other two IPL venues while there is a greater advantage to fielding first in Abu Dhabi. Perhaps we can expect some low scoring thrillers on this bowler-friendly ground..
|Ground||Win percentage when chasing||Average winning first innings score|
At the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, pitches have tended to be on the slow side but there has been plenty of turn on offer for spinners. With an average deviation of 2.7°, Dubai has offered more turn than every regular IPL ground besides Eden Gardens in Kolkata and the Chepauk Stadium in Chennai.
That extra turn has particularly aided off-spinners, whose economy rate at Dubai of 6.62 is bettered only by their performance at Queen’s Park Oval (6.27) and St George’s Park (6.21) of grounds to have hosted more than 50 T20 matches.
Seamers have generally been a touch more expensive in Dubai with their overall economy rate 7.65 compared to spinners’ 6.83, but seamers’ strike rate of a wicket every 16.5 balls is superior to spinners’ 19.4. While these raw numbers are likely affected by the phase in which seamers and spinners bowl, the True Economy Rate figures of -0.7 for spinners and -0.4 for seamers show that spinners have performed marginally better than seamers, irrespective of the phase of the innings. Similarly the True Strike Rates of -2.38 for seamers and -2.02 for spinners demonstrate that seamers have been slightly more of a wicket-taking threat.
One tactic that hasn’t been good for seamers though is the use of slower balls. Deliveries bowled slower that 120kph have averaged 28.09 compared to 23.32 for full pace deliveries. That differential of 4.77 is the third largest of any venue in world cricket.
However, there is some encouragement to be had for batsmen during the death overs. While run rates at Dubai are consistent for the first 15 overs – 6.97 in the first six, 6.86 in the middle overs – that rises dramatically to 8.75 during the last five overs, suggesting there are rewards to be had for batsmen who manage to play themselves in on what can be a tricky surface.
That said, 8.75 still makes Dubai one of the lowest-scoring grounds during the death overs, with only six venues to have hosted 50+ matches registering a slower run rate during the last five overs.
With a smaller playing area and a generally flatter pitch, Sharjah is likely to be the most batting-friendly venue in this year’s IPL. The overall run rate there is 7.64, the highest of the three venues while the high boundary percentage of 14.56% is a reflection of the characteristics of this ground. Indeed, the four to six ratio in T20 matches in Sharjah of 1.72 fours per six is the fourth lowest in the world among venues to have hosted at least 50 T20 matches, further underlining the small boundaries at the ground.
Seamers have struggled to find anything from the pitch, with only Karachi offering less seam movement, on average, than Sharjah.
Balls from seamers on a good length have found an average of 70cm bounce, that is the lowest of any ground to have hosted 20+ T20 matches. This low bounce generally makes run-scoring slightly harder and somewhat mitigates the influence of the small boundaries and absence of lateral movement.
Leg-spin is likely to be more of a wicket-taking threat on the Sharjah pitch, with their overall strike rate of a wicket every 17.1 balls better than every regular IPL ground besides the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi. That’s despite the average bounce from good length balls from spinners being just 61cm, the third lowest of any ground to have hosted 20+ T20 matches, suggesting that batsmen will be deceived by the ball keeping low rather than being surprised by any extra bounce.
There has been something of a shift in the nature of cricket at Sharjah in recent years, with chasing teams’ dominance becoming far more pronounced. From 2010 to 2013, only 47% of chasing teams won in Sharjah, but since then that figure has increased to 55%, while the average first innings winning score has increased from 150 in 2013 to 179 in 2018. Matches in Sharjah generally produce matches with a good balance between bat and ball, with batsmen finding value for shots despite the low nature of the pitch.
|Year||Win percentage when chasing|