Pity the poor, stuffy ground crew of Edgbaston. Barely four days have passed since they downed the wicket at the end of England’s thrilling chase in the long-delayed Fifth Test – and here we are, back to Brum as the one-day England-India roadshow picks up momentum. In addition, the livery around the stadium has changed not once this week, but twice, following Thursday’s shoehorned quarter-final at the Vitality Blast (although, despite all the efforts they’ve made to secure a draw, Birmingham Bears has the right to wish they hadn’t bothered).
However, for some of India’s biggest guns, there may have been a sense of confusing continuity as they stayed in the city after that test deflated, watching the manic scenes unfold around them in the stadium and waiting for their white-ball- colleagues to wave back and contact them in the Midlands.
Speaking of relaunched approaches to batting, there was also a distinct sense at the Ageas Bowl – as a lineup made up mostly of understudies headed to an emphatic 50-point win in Thursday’s first T20I – that , by half a chance, a new philosophy could be instituted to get a hold of India’s white ball game. A determination to stick with it from the get-go, to treat wickets in hand as “resources” and to appreciate distance traveled over time – these are all arguably new traits for a team that has rarely struggled to keep up with the boss their bilateral run in recent times, as evidenced by their current streak of 17 wins in 19 completed T20Is, but whose inherent reticence was dramatically highlighted at the last T20 World Cup, and before that at the 2019 ODI World Cup .
By contrast, restraint is not an accusation that can often be pinned on England’s white balls. Their default setting since 2015 has been to go “too far”, as Brendon McCullum recently said of his new test team, with the thrill of some truly spectacular goals offset by the knowledge that on certain days against certain bowlers, and under certain circumstances, they can become an equally spectacular cropper.
However, that wasn’t really what happened in the Ageas Bowl. It was an unusually slow puncture of a battle display, especially given England’s well-known penchant for a chase. They seemed overly shocked by Jos Buttler’s first pitch – quite the comedown from his beatings in the Netherlands, and on his first day as England’s official captain too. Bhuvneshwar Kumar in particular was great, Jason Roy was unable to send it in his usual way, and with 33 for 4 from the first ball after the power play, there was no turning back.
However, a reaction seems inevitable. Despite Buttler now having four ducks in his last seven innings as captain, his incredible form in the IPL guarantees lasting respect from his Indian opponents, as well as the expectation that if he gets in, he’ll go to work. And it won’t be often that he and Liam Livingstone don’t make any contribution between them. That said, the shrewdness with which Hardik Pandya skinned England’s top order demonstrates the enviable variety in India’s attack, and with Bumrah returning to lead the line, their quality will be kicked up a notch at Edgbaston too.
England LLWLW (last five T20Is completed, most recent first)
Everyone has a theory or ten about Virat Kohli. Michael Vaughan, for example, thinks he’ll have to chill out on a beach for three months, but to see the manic way he stoked his team in the field during the Edgbaston test, there doesn’t seem to be much lacking in the competitive side of his game. In terms of output, however, he is in an undeniably fallow period, and an unusually vulnerable period when it comes to his T20 game. His returns in the IPL were disappointing by all relevant statistics – 341 runs in 16 games at an average of 22.73 and a strike rate of 115.98, with just two fifties. His excellent track record across all formats in Australia means he remains a shoo-in for the next T20 World Cup, but at a time when his Fab Four contemporaries are beginning to feel out of their own team’s T20I plans, Kohli realize that there is a lot at stake in these upcoming matches.
Earlier this week, it was confirmed that Moeen Ali will return to Edgbaston full-time from next season, having signed a three-year contract with Warwickshire (nominally only for whites, but has hinted thanks to Bazball’s excitement that his retirement from the Test may still be an option. withdrawn). So this is an opportunity for an early re-acquaintance with his home crowd – although he may also be aware of the last time he faced India at Edgbaston, in a T20I in 2014, when he was booed by some of the fans because of its Anglo-Pakistani heritage. Such cases are back in the spotlight this week, following the racially motivated incidents during the test match that led to a criminal investigation by the West Midlands Police, which saw undercover “spotters” in the stands on Saturday. Personally, however, Moeen should be in the form and frame of mind for his cricket to thrive this weekend – after two timely wickets and a brief but powerful 36-for-20 cameo in England’s otherwise slack innings in the Ageas Bowl.
Despite the disruption at the Ageas Bowl, no major changes are expected for England, although two bowling changes are expected. Both Tymal Mills and Reece Topley are expected to be snatched from the lineup following their efforts on Thursday, with David Willey – whose absence from the first game was telegraphed by his release to play (and win) for Yorkshire in their Vitality Blast quarterfinals at The Oval on Wednesday – likely to re-enter as the fourth left-arm seamer of the series. Alongside him, we could see an international debut for 34-year-old Richard Gleeson from Lancashire, who would complete one of the more remarkable rags to riches tales on the county circuit.
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 David Willey, 10 Richard Gleeson, 11 Matt Parkinson
India, on the other hand, is expected to make all kinds of changes to their winning line-up – despite how impressively their Ageas Bowl line-up met the full throttle expected from modern T20 line-ups. Neither Deepak Hooda nor Suryakumar Yadav deserve to sit on the couch after their perfect cameos on numbers 3 and 4, but one, or both, will definitely make way for the returning Kohli, and possibly Iyer. Dinesh Karthik unleashed some lustful late blows on his return to the fray, but Pant’s 203 runs in the Edgbaston Test may trump his impact. That or India can sacrifice a batter of the highest order to keep both wicketkeepers in the XI. Meanwhile, Axar Patel hands over his spinning all-rounder to the mighty Jadeja. Likewise, Arshdeep Singh didn’t let anyone down on the debut, but Bumrah is waiting in the wings. Rahul Dravid will once again take over the role of coach, after VVS Laxman oversaw the opening game.
India (probably): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Ishan Kishan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suryakumar Yadav / Deepak Hooda / Shreyas Iyer, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Harshal Patel, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Edgbaston has recently hosted an absolute ton of cricket. There have been five bat-first wins out of eight in the Blast this season, where batting first scores ranged from 101 all-out to 228 for 8. Warm, clear weather is expected for the duration of the game.
“Not really, to be honest. I think there are a lot of guys in that team that you know are going to be aggressive and that’s how T20 cricket is played. I can see over time who thinks it’s a better idea to play more cautiously, so I expect all teams to be positive.”
Jos Buttler was not surprised by India’s attacking intent in the Ageas Bowl
“That’s something Team India looks at: the way we get between [overs] 7 and 15. We make a conscious effort to put pressure on the bowlers – to try to see risk as a positive option, not a positive one. It’s one thing to have the intention, but to be consistent about it takes a lot of skill, and the guys show it.”
Dinesh Karthik explains India’s new game plan with the bat