Middle-order issues for both teams ahead of big decider
Australia’s tour of India began amid expectations – fed by the recent history between these two teams – of gargantuan totals and bruised bowling egos. As it happened, the five ODIs only produced one first-innings total above 300, and the T20Is have been no different so far – Australia made 118 for 8 in the rain-affected series opener in Ranchi, and India were bowled out for the same total in Guwahati.
Both teams, therefore, reach the end of this scuffle looking to pick at holes in the opposition’s batting. Is India’s middle order still a little unsettled, still a little unsure of what it wants to be in the shortest format? Is Australia’s middle order still susceptible to spin? Does Glenn Maxwell go pale when anyone whispers “Yuzvendra Chahal” into his ear?
Both teams reach Hyderabad with a trophy to play for, while knowing they remain works in progress in 20-overs cricket, as their mid-table status in the ICC T20I rankings would suggest. An Australia win would cause the two teams to swap places on the table. An India win would keep them in fifth place, but move them within a point of England in fourth, while causing Australia to slip below South Africa, to seventh.
India: LWWLW (completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
David Warner loves the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. The Sunrisers Hyderabad captain has scored more T20 runs here (1291) than anyone else, at an average of 61.47 and a strike rate of 162.79. He’s had a quiet series so far, and there’s no better place for him to turn in a match- and series-winning performance as Australia’s stand-in captain.
So far in his T20I career, Hardik Pandya has only batted 11 times in 21 matches. He came in to bat in the 10th over, in a crisis situation, in Guwahati, but in five of his last six T20Is before that had either not batted or come to the crease inside the last two overs of India’s innings. It seems a bit of a waste for such a richly talented and destructive batsman to get so few balls to face, and India might benefit from promoting him up the order.
Dinesh Karthik had a long net and throwdown session on the eve of the match, and India might try him or KL Rahul in the middle order, possibly in place of Manish Pandey. Given the state of the series, it seems unlikely that India will give Ashish Nehra a game in the city he last represented in the IPL ahead of his farewell game at his actual home ground.
India (probable): 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Manish Pandey/Dinesh Karthik/KL Rahul, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal.
Marcus Stoinis came in for Daniel Christian in Guwahati and did an excellent job with the ball, conceding only 20 in his four overs and picking up the wicket of Hardik Pandya. Given that performance, Jason Behrendorff’s with the new ball, and those of Moises Henriques and Travis Head in their chase, Australia seem unlikely to make any changes to their XI.
Australia (probable): 1 Aaron Finch, 2 David Warner (capt), 3 Moises Henriques, 4 Travis Head, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Tim Paine (wk), 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Andrew Tye, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Jason Behrendorff.
Pitch and conditions
The Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium is hosting its first T20I. Over the last two IPL seasons, 11 out of 15 first innings at this ground have produced scores of less than 160. Pace bowlers have done well in this period, taking 123 wickets at an average of 25.52 while conceding 7.78 runs per over. Spinners have averaged 47.03 while giving away 7.66 per over.
There has been plenty of rain in Hyderabad over the last couple of weeks, and thundershowers are forecast for Friday evening.
Stats and trivia
The Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium is set to become the 19th Indian venue to host T20Is.
The economy rates of Bhuvneshwar Kumar (6.71) and Jasprit Bumrah (6.72) are among the top three in T20Is among fast bowlers from Full Member teams excluding Afghanistan and Ireland who have bowled in a minimum of 20 innings. Dale Steyn (6.71) is the other member of the top three.
Virat Kohli is one hit away from 200 fours in T20Is – only Tillakaratne Dilshan (223) and Mohammad Shahzad (200) have reached the landmark so far.