Just two days after England Bazball hit a target of 378 – their highest successful chase in Test cricket, with a run rate of almost five – they are gearing up to push the boundaries even further, this time in T20I cricket. After Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes ushered in the new era in grand style, it’s now the turn of Matthew Mott and Jos Buttler to put down their own marker.
Mott had already been in charge of the cue for the three-game ODI series in the Netherlands, but this will be Buttler’s first game as full-time captain after Eoin Morgan’s retirement. None of the members featured in the Edgbaston test will be in action in the T20I series opener. As much as this cue is about testing the young ‘uns, the pre-series focus is on two old boys: 37-year-old Dinesh Karthik and 34-year-old Richard Gleeson.
Last summer Karthik was in England as a commentator, attracting attention with his sharp punditry and hip shirts. Long before that, he came to the country as a Test opener and backup white-ball player, but now he’s here to establish himself as one of India’s top T20I finishers. Making a good old name for himself in the IPL, Karthik quickly hit all parts of bowling to the point that teams eventually started matching him with wrist spinners. The move has worked and England will have taken note, especially Matt Parkinson, who will have the opportunity, in the absence of Adil Rashid, to showcase his wares to some of the best in the business.
While Karthik is in the midst of his countless comeback, Gleeson has earned his first call-up, three months after the 2022 T20 World Cup. The right-armed sailor has had dips in the Bangladesh Premier League (Rangpur Riders), the Big Bash League (Melbourne Renegades) and the Abu Dhabi T10 league (Maratha Arabians and Team Abu Dhabi) and his ability to beat yorkers makes him to have an attractive option. Those Yorkers were featured recently for Lancashire in the Vitality Blast, where he finished a draw and took a one-point win. Given Gleeson’s history of injuries and the absence of some quick moves on the front line due to injury, England may not rush him to play three T20Is in four days.
England LWLWL (last five T20Is completed; most recent first)
A stress fracture of the lower back put Sam Curran from last year’s T20 World Cup and Ashes, but the all-rounder is rising again, having proven his form and fitness in the Dutch ODIs and for Surrey. Curran’s new ball swing and big shot ability make things happen for England again in T20I cricket. The hosts could also play him as a mid-order floater to take Yuzvendra Chahal out of his game.
Like Curran, Suryakumar Yadavi is working his way back to international cricket after injury. Of Deepak Hooda firing at the top, Suryakumar had only a peripheral role to play in Ireland. He could potentially come back to number 3 and play a bigger role against England. Or Hooda can try again and we’ll see how he stacks up against a more powerful attack.
Phil Salt and Harry Brook will battle for the middle spot vacated by Morgan’s departure. Tymal Mills missed the final games of the Sussex group stage with a toe injury, but is expected to be fit for this game after getting stitched up on Wednesday. It looks like he will lead the way for David Willey – who was released on Wednesday night to play in the T20 Blast quarter-finals for Yorkshire – and join a three-man attack on the left arm. Early signs are that Gleeson will have to wait until the weekend for his international debut.
England (probably): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jos Buttler (capt & wk), 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Moeen Ali, 5 Liam Livingstone, 6 Harry Brook, 7 Sam Curran, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Tymal Mills, 10 Reece Topley, 11 Matt Parkinson
India will welcome their captain Rohit Sharma after he misses the Edgbaston test with Covid-19. He has since tested negative and even had a net session in Birmingham. India will have to choose on the bowling front between Umran Malik and Arshdeep Singh, who did not get a match in Ireland. VVS Laxman will be sidelined, at least for the series opener, before Rahul Dravid takes over again.
India (probably): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Ishan Kishan, 3 Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Deepak Hooda, 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Axar Patel, 8 Harshal Patel, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Umran Malik/Arshdeep Singh
The Southampton pitch had a light turf on the eve of the game. The Ageas Bowl has some of the longest boundaries in the country and was the third lowest score in the T20 Blast this season (7.93 runs per over). The average score hit first here in the Blast was 165 this year, and defending teams have won five out of seven games. Thursday is expected to be warm and sunny.
India’s run rate of 8.61 in the power play is the highest of teams that have played at least five or more completed T20Is since November 2021.
“There are still a few things going on in your head: you think about a few things and maybe you talk to a few more people. It’s very important to take very good care of my own game. I want to try to become a captain who leading the way, so it’s really vital that I make sure my own training and preparation is really good.”
Jos Buttler is not too concerned that captaincy will affect his performance.
“It’s always good to play for your country again and you don’t want to miss any matches for your country, but certain things are out of your control. Now that I’m back, [I’m] enthusiastic and curious.”
Rohit Sharma eager to get back into action after a Covid-19 attack