Choice of game
The temperature was rising towards 40 degrees, the humidity was 78%, and the traffic was literally stop-and-go. The parking area was strewn with dirt and throngs of people were huddled outside the rusty iron gate. But when I entered the ground, a whiff of nostalgia hit me as I remembered some of the greatest matches played here in this veteran host of ODIs. Welcome to the Sharjah Cricket Stadium for the battle between the Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Chennai have hit a purple patch and there is no stopping them. The opening stand between Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith had already devastated three very renowned bowling attacks of Kings XI Punjab, Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals, so Chennai entered the game as clear favourites.
A much-improved cricketer now, Smith played with gusto and common sense, giving the utmost respect to Dale Steyn's bullets and whacking Amit Mishra's over-pitched deliveries. He made never looked troubled for runs. The ferocity with which he hit the straight fours showed how he had picked up some of McCullum's batting traits.
Shots of the day
Hyderabad's run-scoring was flagging after Aaron Finch was dismissed. Karn Sharma, an underrated batsman, rose to the occasion and dispatched a Ben Hilfenhaus short ball into orbit. The ball disappeared behind the canopy-shaped tents of the west stand, possibly landing in the traffic outside. The next delivery was pitched on outside off: Sharma used a high back-lift and shaped a wonderful six over deep extra cover.
In Chennai's innings, Smith straight-batted a six over Ishant Sharma's head and followed through the picturesque shot with a stylish pose, something for the photographers.
Despite Sunday being a working day here in the UAE, spectators flocked in thousands; some even grouping up outside the stadium to watch from the big screens. In contrast to the one-odd Australian, South African or a West Indian in the Dubai Cricket Stadium, Sharjah was inundated with Indians. The seating also had '90s feel to it - some of the chairs coming off their hinges, the north stand seats sporting no backrests, and the stairs being used as seats in some areas. But the fans were undeterred by all these inconveniences. They had come to get their fill of high-octane T20 action. And they did.
The localisation of sound was not all that impressive in Sharjah, as it was in Dubai. The light show made up for this deficit though. Lasers from the east stand reached every nook and corner of the stadium and spot-lit the cheerleaders sporadically, when the chance came.
Darren Sammy provided comic relief when he copied a couple of jigs from the cheerleaders while manning the boundary, sending the nearby spectators roaring with laughter.
Marks out of ten