The self-anointed big boys of world cricket are going at it at the Adelaide Oval. The neutrals may struggle to pick a side, but one thing is certain – it will be a blockbuster occasion.
Familiarity will breed competition in this instance, given what’s at stake. Just a few months ago these two sides spent a concentrated fortnight at one another’s throats, with India taking the T20I leg with a pretty convincing 2-1 series win. But things are different now, very much in a good way. Jos Buttler is a more accomplished captain, settled in the rigmarole of the job and his tactics. Meanwhile, Virat Kohli has rediscovered his mojo.
England will feel they have an edge of sorts, what with two must-win games ticked off against New Zealand and Sri Lanka to get them out of Group 1. There is a renewed confidence about them as setters having long been chasers, to the extent that the toss may be academic provided evening dew is minimal.
As for India, the only team to have won four matches in the Super 12 stage, the pressure to go on to a reunion with Pakistan at the MCG in Sunday’s final will be great, though no greater than what their players usually contend with. Quite apart from their obvious strength is a cerebral approach to their T20 work that gives them a unique edge over opponents before they have set foot on the park. Much of England’s public preparation has been on bigging that up while privately racking their brains to take them down a few pegs.
Wherever you look, there are match-ups that could be regarded as game-changing bouts. Don’t miss any of them.
India WWLWW (last five completed T20Is, most recent first)
In the spotlight
In a team of superstars, Suryakumar Yadav strides above them all as the man of this World Cup. No one has had a more profound effect on his team – and opponents – quite like this 32-year-old phenom equipped with more scoring options than Erling Haaland. The numbers he’s posted so far – 225 at a strike rate of 193.96 – are remarkable, the strokeplay drawing admiration from all quarters, even AB de Villiers who is the only one that springs to mind when it comes to the consistent destruction this man is serving up. Can he be stopped?
Reliable with the ball, the usual excellence in the field and, against Sri Lanka, finally a score of note with the bat. Picking Ben Stokes in this section is as clear as the blue’s SKY. But in Dawid Malan’s likely absence, the allrounder is the only batter likely to hold the innings together and take things deep in the event of early losses. They say the big moments find him, and few come bigger than this.
The only debate for India is whether to play Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik. Pant can upset Adil Rashid being a left-hand batter but Karthik is the finisher who can hit from ball one. Also Pant will have Moeen Ali’s offspin to deal with. Going by India’s training session, it looks like Karthik will play, having engaged in keeping drills while Pant did not. It is touch and go.
India (possible): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Dinesh Karthik/Rishabh Pant (wk), 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Arshdeep Singh.
England (possible): 1 Jos Buttler (capt & wk), 2 Alex Hales, 3 Dawid Malan/Phil Salt, 4 Ben Stokes, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Liam Livingstone, 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Sam Curran, 9 Chris Woakes, 10 Chris Jordan, 11 Adil Rashid.
Pitch and conditions
Yes, this will be a used pitch, but it was last used on November 4 for the match between Australia and Afghanistan. The groundsman has assured Jos Buttler that he has had enough time to prepare what should not behave like a tired pitch. Buttler said: “I think having talked to the groundsman, his team is really confident that he’s had a lot of time to get some really good work into the wicket. He seems very comfortable that it’s going to be a really good surface and a consistent surface. At the moment I have no worries about the pitch.”
For what it’s worth, the pitch for Australia vs Afghanistan started off slow and inconsistent in bounce, but it skidded on nicely at night. Afghanistan came close to chasing down 168. Chasing upon winning the toss might be a good idea, though much of the week leading up to this match has been quite hot so there might be more pace in this pitch. The forecast is fine, albeit with a morning shower predicted. Nevertheless, this should be an uninterrupted match.
“These guys are quite dangerous. They’ve played some really good cricket in the tournament as well, which is why they’re here. So we’ve got to be at our best to win the game.”
India captain Rohit Sharma is taking nothing for granted.
“Well, we certainly don’t want to see an India-Pakistan final, so we’ll be trying all we can do to make sure that doesn’t happen.”Jos Buttler speaks for a nation. Perhaps just one nation.