India v England
Friday 12 March 13.30
TV: live on Sky Sports
India need to cut loose
India are the No 3-ranked side in T20 and they will expect to improve on that to win their second World T20 when they host the tournament in October. They have work to do on their mindset. They need to take the handbrake off.
There is no more talented top three of KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli but one suspects there is limited desire to go full-blown chaos theory with the bat. They need to get Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya in as early as possible. In time that might mean Kohli has to sacrifice himself at No.3 (yeah, right).
Curiously for the nation that hosts - and bloods youngsters - in the all-dominant IPL, they seem to lack balance. Do they have enough lower-order hitters for example?
With the ball they are also a work in progress. There is no Jasprit Bumrah. In the last two years they have had 13 different winners on the top bowler market. Natarajan is also a doubt. India could well team up three spinners, particularly if Hardik is not fit to bowl.
Possible XI Rohit, Rahul, Kohli, Yadav, Pant, Hardik, Tewatia, Thakur, Chahar, Chahal, Saini
Archer is fit
England are, according to the ICC, the best side in the world. Over these five games that reputation might come under some strain. It will be a trial by spin, although one suspects not on a par with what their Test compatriots encountered.
With a clutch of players benefitting from strong stints in the IPL - Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Jofra Archer, Sam Curran - they shouldn’t find conditions too alien. There’s also the fact that England contested the World T20 final in India on dry, spin-friendly surfaces.
Eoin Morgan, the skipper, has said they are prepared to “play around” with their options. That means we could see a different XI at the start to the finish. Jason Roy, Liam Livingstone, Sam Billings and Reece Topley should all get game time at some stage. Stokes is overdue a rest, for example.
Morgan has also said that Jofra Archer is fit after an elbow injury. But we would be surprised if he played all five games, which is why we’re keen on death bowler Chris Jordan for top series wicket-taker honours.
Possible XI Bairstow, Buttler, Malan, Stokes, Morgan, Moeen, Sam Curran, Archer, Jordan, Rashid, Wood
Spinners were dominant in the two Tests in Ahmedabad. We expect a dry, dusty surface but nothing chaotic. Morgan has said he expects the encounters to be low-scoring. If you believe he is a man of his word, and with no pitch data to go on (no T20s played at the venue since 2013 and a major refit) you could take minimal risk prices on lays of 130 or 140 or more on the innings runs markets. We also make a note of the 3/1 that no fifty is scored.
England can go well
India are 1.664/6 for a 1-0 lead but they don’t fit the criteria to be supported at such odds. For us to be involved at such a price in this format - franchise or international - we like proof there is a significant gulf between the teams.
And there isn’t one. We don’t doubt that England may come unstuck against spin at some stage but as discussed in our series preview we are expecting a tight contest. At the very least we expect England to trade as favourites from 2.486/4.
Caution is the watch word, though. We want to have a good look at this Ahmedabad surface. Game one could be a learning curve and we should be tooled up in terms of knowledge from game two.
There are two solid wagers on the tops markets. Kl Rahul and Dawid Malan are these two teams’ go-to run-getters. But Sportsbook have underrated both for top match runscorer. Split stakes between the two. Rahul is 7/1 and Malan 15/2. On win rates they should be 4/1 and Malan an incredible 9/4.
India v England series preview on Cricket…Only Bettor