England face fight to keep series alive

Match details

Sophia Gardens, Cardiff
July 6, Friday; 22:00 IST
Live on SPL, streaming on Sony Liv

The main picture

India’s start to the UK tour has been tremendous, to the extent that they have probably surprised themselves. The T20Is against Ireland were seen as an opportunity to acclimatise to the chilly weather conditions in this part of the world and be ready for the start of the England tour. Although we are still at an early phase, the impression is that Virat Kohli and co. feel at home—thanks largely to the warm weather and the batting-friendly pitches on offer for each of the three T20 Internationals so far—and they can only get better.

The first of a three-match series is important for both teams, simply because you get pushed to a do-or-die situation if you make a losing start. And England, despite being the host and for all the quality and dynamism they possess, are the team under pressure ahead of the second T20I.

Eoin Morgan admitted after the eight-wicket defeat in the first T20I, that Kuldeep Yadav had “deceived” the England batsmen with his bag of tricks. Morgan also said that the batsmen expect to do better against the biggest weapon in India’s arsenal. Kuldeep single-handedly turned the match around for India in Manchester with his five-wicket haul and, if England don’t come to grips with his variations or find a way to deny him wickets, the left-arm chinaman spinner will continue to be their biggest tormentor.

Jos Buttler’s batting form and David Willey’s ever-improving credentials as an all-rounder are the positives that England will look to build on. They will, however, continue to miss the big-hitting ability and wealth of IPL experience that Ben Stokes, who is out with a torn left hamstring, can provide. England will also want Alex Hales to come good at No. 3.

The visiting India, on the other hand, will be confident of another dominant display to potentially close out the series. If they manage to take an unassailable series lead by winning in Cardiff, the team management will be able to test the bench strength, which Kohli has reiterated a couple of times since arriving in the UK. The think-tank has finally found a way to accommodate Lokesh Rahul, while India’s bench strength is very much the superior one, too.

Pitch conditions and weather forecast 

The last time Sophia Gardens hosted a T20 International was in June 2017. The pitch here is usually good for batting and the straight boundary is considerably short. Expect the captain who wins the toss to choose to bowl first.

The forecast is for sunny weather on Friday, with the temperature at night being 15 degree Celsius.

India vs England past T20I record

With the result of the first T20I, India and England’s head to head record in this format stands at 6-6, India also registering their first ever T20I win against England in England.

India vs England probable XI

England may not alter their playing XI despite the heavy defeat on Wednesday. They should, however, assess if Joe Root is an automatic pick in their playing XI for T20Is and if so, should he slot in as a middle-order batsman, with Hales batting at No. 3? Similarly, is Jonny Bairstow a good option if he is going to bat lower down the order?.

Possible England playing XI: 1 Eoin Morgan (c), 2 Jason Roy, 3 Jos Buttler, 4 Joe Root, 5 Alex Hales, 6 Jonny Bairstow, 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 David Willey, 10 Liam Plunkett, 11 Adil Rashid

India, as aforementioned, have managed to accommodate the in-form Rahul in the XI, while the combination of six batsmen and four bowlers is perfect if Hardik Pandya provides four overs. They are likely to retain the winning combination.

Probable India playing XI: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Shikhar Dhawan, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Lokesh Rahul, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Siddarth Kaul, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Kuldeep Yadav

Match prediction

Given the clear weather forecast for Friday and the pitch once again being a good one for batting, the bowling attack that fares better will likely make the difference to the end result. From England’s viewpoint, they need to counter the threat of Kuldeep Yadav to give themselves a chance of keeping the series alive.

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