An eight-over-a-side sprint in Nagpur ended with India tying the T20I series 1-1 thanks to excellent bowling from Axar Patel and a supreme display of hitting the ball from Rohit Sharma. But it’s hard for the two sides to get much out of Friday’s experience other than getting some insight into how to tactically prepare for a rain-shortened game in the World Cup.
India selected the extra batter, but Rishabh Pant wasn’t even needed, and they only needed four specialist bowlers and Hardik Pandya in an eight-over match, a luxury they can’t afford in a normal 20-overs-a-side contest. The death-overs bowling remains a question mark, although the return of Jasprit Bumrah was welcome and he bowled superbly.
Australia is really experimenting on this tour with so many of their first-choice players missing. They went even further than usual in Nagpur, opting for an additional bowler for the first time since 2021, just to try something out in case the field played differently than expected. However, it left them a little light on hitting, as Axar ripped Glenn Maxwell and Tim David.
But the incredible form of Matthew Wade and Aaron Finch finding some runs are positive signs. Adam Zampa also cast an excellent spell to once again prove himself as one of the best leg pinners in T20 cricket.
However, like India, Australia has a death-overs problem. Nathan Ellis was injured and missed last night’s match, while Kane Richardson has a minor problem and will not play in the T20I final in Hyderabad. Due to the absence of Mitchell Starc, Australia has not been able to trust their big guns in Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins at death as much as they would like. They would like to find a solution before the World Cup.
India WLWLL (last five T20Is completed, most recent first) Australia LWLWW
In the spotlight
Harshal Patel has found it difficult so far in this series after being favored to throw some of the tough overs as India sought to remedy their lack of death specialists. Wade, in particular, has proven to be a nemesis for Harshal. The dew factor in both games also didn’t help him execute his slower balls and yorkers under pressure. That won’t be a problem when he goes to Australia, and bouncers with slower balls and shortcutters are usually very effective on the real and dry surfaces there, especially with the large square borders in most venues excluding Adelaide. But he and the management of India would love a good outing just to increase the confidence level and solidify the structure of the bowling unit of India.
Whisper it quietly, but is Pat Cummins still a lock-in in Australia’s best T20I bowling unit? Notionally, it seems blasphemous to say it out loud. But its form since the beginning of the last IPL does raise the question. It’s a small sample of seven games, but his thrift percentage over that time is 10.91 and he’s only played one game in which he got less than ten runs per over. Australia management are confident he can find his groove as he rarely gets a long run at T20 cricket due to his testing duties. Part of the problem is that his test match lengths don’t translate well into T20s, and it takes a while for him to adjust. Opponent’s batters find that his natural length is the perfect batting length in T20 cricket. He executed some excellent bouncers with slower balls last night in Nagpur. He will have to tighten up his execution of those and his Yorkers before the World Cup.
The teams should return to a more normal line-up in Hyderabad. Pant will likely give way as he was not needed with the bat, and India will need an extra bowler for a full match. Bhuvneshwar Kumar seems the logical choice to return. India could also consider bringing in R Ashwin for Yuzvendra Chahal.
Australia will go back to a seven batter strategy with Josh Inglis going straight back into middle order. One of Sean Abbott and Daniel Sams will make way. If Ellis is fit, he will come right back for the other one. Australia can also be very careful with Cummins and Hazlewood. Three games in six days, one cut short by rain, and several long-haul flights is a recipe for injury. Any hint of pain in their thoroughbreds and they’ll be rested. But now that Richardson is unavailable, they can’t both rest.
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/Daniel Sams/Sean Abbott, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood
Location and conditions
It has been three years since a T20 match was held in Hyderabad. There have been no IPL matches there since 2019 and the last match was a running party between India and the West Indies. Our man at the ground says the field is a nice beige hue, with little or no grass in sight. It looks full of runs so it could be another rough night for the bowlers. Virat Kohli will have fond memories of walking through the gates. He has a 53.62 average and has scored 139.73 in ten games there, including 94 not out of 50 against the West Indies.
The weather, warm and dry leading up to the weekend, has changed somewhat, with dark clouds on the eve of the race.
Statistics and trivia
The coin toss may not be that important in Hyderabad. In the last 16 T20s dating back to the start of the 2018 IPL, it’s eight wins for the teams that bat first and second.
In his last four T20Is, Axar has taken eight wickets at an average of 8.62, with a strike rate of 9.7 and an economy rate of 5.3.
In his last eight T20I innings, dating back to his exploits in the 2021 World Cup semi-final against Pakistan, Wade has scored 228 runs (disallowed only once) with a strike rate of 178.12.
Hazlewood is two short of 50 T20I wickets. When he arrives on Friday, in what will be his 33rd T20I, he will beat Starc’s 40-game Australian record.
“He can bowl at any stage of the game. That gives me an advantage to use him, especially when I have four overs from him, to use him in the power play. That frees up some of our fast bowlers in the middle if I want to use it So he brings a lot to the table This guy has been playing cricket for such a long time and doing well for his franchise India it’s time he took this kind of opportunity And in the last two games, what we saw is what Axar Patel is really all about. We’ll just have to wait and see to see some of his batting skills.”
Rohit Sharma is full of praise for Axar Patel
“He’s such a quiet customer at the back of the innings there. He’s really grown into that last role. He’s either been at the top of the order or at the bottom and I think he’s starting to do a great job there.”
Aaron Finch on the sublime form of Matthew Wade
Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo