At the moment, the situation of the Indian cricket team reflects life: once you have overcome a challenge, the next one pops up.
Having successfully sorted out their batting, with their top order now looking for limits, they would have thought it was time to breathe easy. But lately they’ve been getting a headache from their death bowling.
Since January 2022, 33 bowlers have bowled 20 or more overs to death in T20 cricket. Among them, Harshal Patel (10.45) has the tenth worst rate. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is somewhere in the middle with 9.54.
In the first game of the ongoing series, India posted 208 for 6, their highest T20I total against Australia. During their pursuit, Australia needed 55 of the last four overs, but ended the game with four balls left on the bench.
Yes, the Mohali field was flat, the lightning in the outfield and the edges small, but there was hardly any dew. If India did not have the services of Jasprit Bumrah, Australia would also be without David Warner, Mitchell Marsh and Marcus Stoinis.
However, India has solutions in sight for the T20 World Cup if not this series. Once Bumrah returns, it should solve half the problem. And while Arshdeep Singh is not in the roster for the Australian series, he could be tried in place of Harshal during the South African T20Is. With a death-overs economy of 7.16, Arshdeep is third on the aforementioned list.
Australia, meanwhile, will be pleased with their captain Aaron Finch showing signs of a return to form after a miserable time in ODIs this year. He took on Bhuvneshwar in the power play, beating him for 22 from two overs to set the tone. Among other positives, Steven Smith, who hit No. 3 for the first time since October last year, hit a 24-ball 35, and Matthew Wade again demonstrated his finishing skills with an undefeated 45 from 21 balls.
The visitors will try to seal the series in Nagpur themselves, which will again be a big boost in the absence of many first-choice players.
India LWLLW (last five T20Is completed, most recent first)
In the spotlight
If he is fully fit, Bumrah should replace Umesh Yadav for India. The hosts might also consider bringing in R Ashwin for Yuzvendra Chahal.
India (probably): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Axar Patel, 8 Harshal Patel, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Jasprit Bumrah/ Umesh Yadav, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal/R Ashwin
Australia will likely remain unchanged, with Kane Richardson, who missed the first T20I due to a minor glitch, still unavailable. If they decide to put one of Josh Hazlewood or Pat Cummins to rest, Sean Abbott can come in.
Australia (probably): 1 Aaron Finch (capt), 2 Cameron Green, 3 Steven Smith, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Josh Inglis, 6 Tim David, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Nathan Ellis, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood
Location and conditions
India’s training on Thursday was canceled due to rain. On Friday it will be mostly cloudy and the temperature will fluctuate around 25°C.
Statistics and trivia
- Nine of the 12 T20Is in Nagpur have been won by the team hit first.
- Nothing but 45 runs separate Rohit Sharma (3631) and Virat Kohli (3586), the two best run-getters in T20Is.
- Bhuvneshwar and Chahal each have 84 T20I wickets – the most for India in the format.
- Hazlewood is two short of 50 T20I wickets. When he arrives on Friday, in what will be his 32nd T20I, he will beat Mitchell Starc’s Australian 40-game record.
“I don’t net much, I practice separately, but from what I’ve also experienced I can say that Harshal Patel’s slower balls and his other variations are very deceiving. He has worked very hard on it. He is like come back from injury, so let’s give him some advantage.”
Suryakumar Yadavi on when it has become easier to choose Harshal’s slower balls
“Having a good experience playing in India, finishing matches, understanding how it flows and how to play, or when it comes to you. It can be an advantage to hit second in Indian conditions. That was a good experience, having drawn the IPL on the other night there in the middle.”
Tim David that his IPL experience comes in handy
Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo