County Ground, Bristol
July 8, Sunday; 18:30 IST
Live on SPN, streaming on Sony Liv
The main picture
England proved, with their strong response to India winning the opening T20I, why we were excited for this tour featuring two well-matched teams. Winning the second T20I was a reward for the host’s proactiveness and a proof of their mental strength. And, after two matches that played out very differently, we go to Bristol with the series on the line.
Neither side have an edge on the other and, like in Manchester and Cardiff, England and India will need a complete performance in Bristol to win the series.
India have issues to iron out at the top of the order, with Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma struggling for rhythm against David Willey and co. The indifferent start to the Indian innings in Cardiff was a major reason for the eventual defeat and, even in Manchester, the visitor didn’t get off to a good start in the chase of 160. Albeit the team management will not be bothered yet, a good start from the openers is paramount whether India bat first or chase.
Umesh Yadav has been the standout Indian bowler over the first two T20Is and Kuldeep Yadav, despite a wicketless outing in the second match, will continue to be the main threat for England. Hardik Pandya completing his four-over quota in back to back matches is another positive for India, who will like to have Bhuvneshwar Kumar back to his best.
For England, Alex Hales’s winning knock in Cardiff and Jonny Bairstow making a crucial 28 in the lower middle order are major positives ahead of the decider on Sunday. David Willey continues to keep the Indian batsmen in check with his ability to move the ball in the air and off the surface and taking early wickets does make a difference to the end equation.
Lack of runs from Joe Root will worry England, particularly with the way he’s getting out against the kind of bowling (spin) he is expected to be on top of. And with Ben Stokes returning to the squad for the final T20I, Root’s place in the XI is uncertain.
Pitch conditions and weather forecast
The County Ground has to date hosted only two T20 Internationals, the last was way back in 2011. This is a venue with a relatively small boundary and, given the kind of batting line-ups India and England boast, a high-scoring match isn’t out of the question.
The forecast is for clear, warm weather with a temperature of 29 degree Celsius.
India vs England past T20I record
With the result of the second T20I, the head to head record in this format stands at 7-6 in favour of England.
Probable India vs England playing XI
With Ben Stokes fit again after recovering from a torn left hamstring and available for selection for the deciding T20I, Joe Root’s place in XI is at risk. A two-dimensional cricketer, Stokes will add a lot more firepower to England than what Root has been able to. Moeen Ali, who was dropped for the second T20I, may not be picked again.
Possible England playing XI: 1 Eoin Morgan (c), 2 Jason Roy, 3 Jos Buttler, 4 Ben Stokes, 5 Alex Hales, 6 Jonny Bairstow, 7 Jake Ball, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 David Willey, 10 Liam Plunkett, 11 Adil Rashid
India, in the absence of Jasprit Bumrah, are playing their best-possible playing XI and are unlikely to make changes for the final T20I unless someone has picked up an injury.
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 Umesh Yadav, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Kuldeep Yadav
As aforementioned, both teams need a complete performance to go on and win the series. England will be buoyed by the return of the fit-again Stokes, who is an impact player who will significantly improve the host if he returns to the playing XI, while India need a better batting performance. From a fan’s point of view, you couldn’t have asked for a better series finale.