These are two hard-hitting teams trying to come to terms with conditions that limit their ambitions. Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore raise heck at the Chinnaswamy. And Rohit Sharma's Mumbai Indians are virtually unstoppable at their Wankhede fortress. The pitches there are quick and true so batters can go out and do what they do by instinct. Out in the desert, that's not quite the case.
The new ball is the only time these two teams can go hammer and tongs and other random household instruments. After that, when the field spreads and pace is taken off the ball, they need to be more nuanced. Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers will want to adjust their gameplans to account for this vagary as quickly as possible. Otherwise they might just tumble out of title contention, victims of the Kolkata Knight Riders redemption arc.
Mumbai Indians' middle order. It used to be the engine room that churned out success. Their 2020 title was built on invaluable contributions from Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan. Players capable of hitting sixes from ball one. However, they have had to play most of their matches this season on surfaces that haven't been conducive to that kind of daredevilry. Suryakumar and Kishan are quality players; assets who will be playing a T20 World Cup in a month's time. If they give themselves a little time - five or six balls to get set - they could well leave the UAE with not one but two trophies.
Virat Kohli's IPL Part II began with a resignation. He no longer wanted to be a captain in T20 cricket. The stress of devising plans A through Z and beyond match after match after match can be just a tiny bit stressful. Especially to a player who seems to live and die with each ball bowled. Kohli's decision was meant to free him up as a batter; to transition from anchor, a role that is redundant in this format, to marauder. But it looks like the lack of depth in the Royal Challengers batting line-up is coming in the way of his progress.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Devdutt Padikkal, 2 Virat Kohli (capt), 3 Glenn Maxwell, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Rajat Patidar, 6 Kyle Jamieson, 7 Srikar Bharat (wk), 8 Harshal Patel, 9 Navdeep Saini/Shahbaz Ahmed, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
AB de Villiers is responsible for nearly a quarter of his team's post-powerplay runs this season (219 out of 907). Stopping him as early as possible means putting an end to any chance Royal Challengers have of accelerating towards the death. And while there will be strong temptation to unleash Jasprit Bumrah (114 runs off 79 balls, strike rate 144) Mumbai Indians will do well to remember the other options at their disposal: Krunal Pandya (51 off 47, four dismissals), Kieron Pollard (23 off 22, three dismissals) and even Rahul Chahar (34 off 28).
Kieron Pollard, by the way, is just as important to Mumbai Indians' batting might, contributing 204 of their 943 post-powerplay runs this season, at a strike rate of 160. So his arrival to the crease might well prompt Kohli to throw the ball to Yuzvendra Chahal, who has dismissed the West Indian powerhouse a joint-top four times in 14 IPL matches.
Stats that matter
Kohli is 13 steps away from reaching Mount 10,000 in T20 cricket.
Over the last 29 T20s in Dubai, the average score batting first is 170.
Glenn Maxwell is up against his bogey team, with T20 data suggesting he comes worse off in virtually every head-to-head match-up: Bumrah (70 runs off 61 balls, six dismissals), Trent Boult (23 off 19, two dismissals), Chahar (38 off 28, two dismissals) Krunal (98 off 78, three dismissals).
While Chahal is a clear threat to Mumbai and their prospects, they do have a couple of really good options to counter him and their names are Kishan (strike rate 216) and Krunal (strike rate 143).