Melbourne Cricket Ground
November 23, Friday; 13:20 IST
Live on SPN, streaming on SonyLiv
The main picture
Neither India nor Australia can read much into the Brisbane T20I given the number of tactical and on-field errors they committed. On the evening, the home team bowled better, with Adam Zampa and Marcus Stoinis picking four wickets between them for the concession of 49 runs in seven overs when India had to score at more than 10 runs per over to achieve the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) target of 174. Zampa and Stoinis’ superlative bowling performance meant Jason Behrendorff, Andrew Tye and Billy Stanlake combinedly going at 11.70 runs per over (117 runs in 10 overs) didn’t cost Australia.
India’s decision to play only four specialist bowlers, and complement them with the left-arm orthodox spin of all-rounder Krunal Pandya, proved to be a big mistake. Two of India’s bowlers—Krunal and Khaleel Ahmed—were expensive and India didn’t have another bowler (a part-time bowler or a specialist) to fall back on.
Looking ahead to the second T20I, the imperative for the India team management is to find the right balance to the playing XI. They will have to, perhaps, sacrifice a batsman and bring in a fifth specialist bowler, giving Virat Kohli additional options should a bowler prove expensive. Despite the failure of two premier batsmen (Kohli and Rohit Sharma), India almost managed to pull off the steep chase in Brisbane, which is an indication that having five specialist batsmen in the playing XI will not necessarily harm India. And Kohli and Rohit are good enough to bounce back from a failure.
Stoinis’ all-round show and Glenn Maxwell’s batting were the two big positives for Australia from the first T20I. If these two players continue from where they left off, Australia will be hard to stop in Melbourne as well. Mind you, Maxwell’s off-spin went unused and he offers Aaron Finch the cushion as a sixth bowling option without the team management needing to bring in another player, which is essentially the problem India are facing.
As a lover of the sport, you will hope that the two teams continue to serve the kind of hard-fought cricket they did in Brisbane. And with the quality in the ranks, no reason why you shouldn’t be looking forward to another potentially close encounter.
MCG pitch report and weather forecast
A multi-purpose stadium, the MCG uses a drop-in pitch, which is usually good for batting. The big square boundaries offer bowlers the chance of picking wickets if they bowl back of a length, forcing the batsmen to play horizontal-bat shots.
The forecast says that Friday evening will be cloudy and breezy with a chance of a couple of showers, which means the captain winning the toss will probably opt to bowl first to give his team the best chance of winning if Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method comes into the equation.
India vs Australia 2nd T20 playing 11
Andrew Tye was expensive and also struggled to contain the batsmen. His 25-run 14th over changed the complexion of the Brisbane T20I and gave India the belief of winning it after they reduced the equation from 60 runs needed off four overs to 35 runs needed off three overs. Australia will hope that their No. 1 seamer in T20Is bounces back after a bad performance. D’Arcy Short is enduring a lean run—4, 2, 10, 0, and 7 have been his last five scores in T20Is—but the team management will not be concerned just yet. And the home team, as such, don’t have a reason to alter their playing XI after winning the first T20I.
Possible Australia XI: 1 Aaron Finch (c), 2 D’Arcy Short, 3 Chris Lynn, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Alex Carey (wk), 7 Ben McDermott, 8 Andrew Tye, 9 Adam Zampa, 10 Jason Behrendorff, 11 Billy Stanlake
The team selection for India is not as straightforward. The team management, having made a mistake with the playing combination in the first T20I, will be under pressure to get the balance right for what is a must-win match. Krunal Pandya and KL Rahul’s places are the most under threat, with Yuzvendra Chahal likely to come in for the Melbourne T20I.
Possible India 11: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Shikhar Dhawan 4 KL Rahul/Yuzvendra Chahal, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Dinesh Karthik, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Khaleel Ahmed, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
“We don’t have much time to think of things, [that’s the] good thing as well as a bad thing when you haven’t won the game. You just move on to the next game,” said Kohli in his post-match interview. India will take heart from the fact that despite not playing at their best, they were very close to winning in Brisbane. Australia showed that they have players capable of making a difference in matches even when, as a team, their confidence is low and the players are fighting for form. The second T20I in Melbourne, therefore, has the making of being another closely-fought match. And, as a rule of thumb, the team who make the lesser mistakes are likely to prevail.