Time: September 19, 7:30 PM IST

Venue: Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Pitch report

The batsmen won’t be able to score runs as profusely as they do in India, but the pitches in UAE do produce edge-of-the-seat thrillers.

The highest total at the venue is 225 for 7 by Ireland against Afghanistan, suggesting that runs are easy to come by. However, that is not always the case. Two years ago, Pakistan skittled out Australia for a mere 89. To put things into perspective, there’s something on offer for everyone – batsmen, spinners, and pacers alike.

To narrow down the nature of the pitch, let’s walk through how things panned out when the first half of the Indian T20 League was played at the venue in 2014. In 6 completed matches, the average scores read 160 and 154 in first and second innings respectively. While the highest score read 206 for 4 by Punjab in a thrilling chase, the lowest was Bangalore’s 70 all out in a 15-over, rain-affected match.

If anything, the pitch’s quality of creating even contests highlights the fact that fantasy players need to pack their teams with as many as all-rounders as they can.

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Weather report

It’s scorching hot in Abu Dhabi, with the temperature likely to rise as high as 37 degrees celsius on Saturday. To add more fuel to the fire, dew will play a major role, especially in the first innings.

Power players

With Suresh Raina pulling out, Chennai’s second-brightest star will be Ravindra Jadeja – of course, after MS Dhoni. The million-dollar question, however, is: who will bat at No. 3? No doubt that Chennai have a few candidates to fill in Raina’s place, but the fact that Jadeja has scored 90 runs with an impressive strike rate of 140 in four matches at No. 3 makes matters more and more interesting. If not at 3, he will definitely bat higher up than he usually does. His numbers anyway speak volumes of his all-round abilities: in 170 matches he has scored 1,927 runs, picked up 108 wickets, and pouched 63 catches. He fetches points in all three disciplines of the game, thus making him popular in the world of fantasy cricket.

In a practice session last week, Rohit Sharma hit a 95-metre six and broke the windows of a moving bus. In fact, for a Mumbaikar, breaking windows isn’t a new escapade. That said, it is a sign that the Hitman has not lost his sheen in the lockdown. With 4,898 runs, Rohit is the third-highest run-scorer in the league.

MS Dhoni may not have played any competitive cricket for over a year, but when he dons the yellow jersey, he is a different person – calm as ever but more relaxed as a batsman. He was the highest run-scorer for Chennai in the 2019 edition. For a batsman who bats below Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, and Suresh Raina, that is quite an achievement.

T20 being the batsmen’s game is nothing but a myth. Over the years, the wrist-spinners have been equally thriving. Chennai already have an old warhorse in their armoury. Imran Tahir was the highest wicket-taker in the previous edition, and in the recently concluded Caribbean T20 League, his 15 wickets were the third most – all this under an economy of 6 RPO.

Smart picks

Quinton de Kock scored the bulk of the runs for Mumbai in 2019, smashing 529 runs with a strike rate of 133. Second in the list was the underrated Suryakumar Yadav, who managed 424 runs.

The onus of providing a blistering start will be on the experienced trio of Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, and Ambati Rayudu. Even if the wickets fall early, one of them will have to bat through 15 overs and hold the fort for Chennai.

Jasprit Bumrah has been sending down thunders in the practice sessions. The most significant aspect of having him in fantasy cricket is that he bowls in the powerplay as well as death, scaling up his chances of sniping up more wickets. Sharing the spells with him will be the skilful Trent Boult.

Kieron Pollard is in the peak of his form not only with the bat but all with the ball. In the Caribbean T20 League, he scored 207 runs with a swaggering strike rate of 205 and took 8 wickets, 4 of which came in the final. He and Hardik Pandya will play crucial roles in middle and death overs, when Mumbai will be required to use the long handle to devastating effect.

Deepak Chahar is back to full fitness, after testing positive for COVID-19 last month. He took 22 wickets in the previous season, and his figures of 6 for 7 are the best in T20Is.

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Probable XIs

Mumbai: Rohit Sharma (c), Quinton de Kock* (wk), Ishan Kishan, Surya Kumar Yadav, Kieron Pollard*,  Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Nathan Coulter-Nile*, Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult*, Rahul Chahar

Chennai: Shane Watson*, Faf du Plessis*, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, DJ Bravo*, Piyush Chawla, Deepak Chahar, Imran Tahir*, Shardul Thakur


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