Sri Lanka's Pathum Nissanka celebrates after scoring a half-century during the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup cricket match against South Africa at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: How do you bat on the Sharjah pitch? That must be the question racing through the minds of teams in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. There’s no firm answer. No solution either. Or an equation. Plain common sense may help.

Look at the last two matches at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in the past two days. Both were decided in the final over, and one on the last ball. South Africa won chasing Sri Lanka’s score today, and the previous day Bangladesh stumbled in the chase of the West Indian total.

So there goes the argument of whether to bat first or chase later.

Anchoring the innings

Pathum Nissanka’s 57-ball 72 offers a good example, but that necessarily is not a template. The Sri Lankan opener searched for boundaries in the powerplay without taking too many risks. The 23-year-old showed a lot of maturity as wickets fell around him. He didn’t get carried away; instead he focused on anchoring the innings.

A fifty in 46 balls would usually be considered a slow-burn. Not Nissanka’s. If he hadn’t held one end up, Sri Lanka would have collapsed, especially since they lost two of their prolific scorers, Charith Asalanka and Bhanuth Rajapaksa.

After his half-century, Nissanka powered away as the Sri Lankans entered the slog overs. His dismissal in the 19th over deprived the Sri Lankans of some precious runs. But look back and see how the opener linked the powerplay with middle-overs and later the slog.

Even South African captain Temba Bavuma’s 46-ball 46 took a similar trajectory. His presence in the middle helped string together small partnerships that pushed South Africa towards the target. Maybe, this is how you play on this wicket.

Slog overs

Roston Chase did something similar on Friday. He came in when the West Indies had lost opener Evin Lewis, and he kept one end going till the slog overs. That stability was lacking for the West Indies in the first two games, which they lost.

Chase, Bavuma and Nissanka offer something worth pondering. Ditch the all-out attack theory propounded by some experts. That works on flat wickets and if the teams bat very deep. In Sharjah, blazing away at the start and in the middle-overs is a recipe for disaster.

So when teams travel to Sharjah, pack a sheet anchor. A batsman who can take the game deep; a batsman with a temperament to eschew risky shots; a batsman who can pull out the big shots in the end. Such a batsman could be a trump card on the Sharjah pitch.