After losing the first match by four wickets, hosts India are looking to claw their way back into the series against Australia, but the weather might throw a monkey wrench in their works.
On Thursday, the practise sessions of India and Australia were cancelled due to persistent drizzling in Nagpur. Both the teams are set to lock horns in the 2nd T20I of the three-match series on Friday. After losing the first match by four wickets at Mohali, the hosts are looking to claw their way back into the series, but the weather might throw a monkey wrench in their works.
Though the rain wasn’t torrential, the outfield was wet, which prevented both teams from indulging in the practice. With the T20 World Cup round the corner, they don’t want to take the risk of having any key players injured.
The weather department has forecasted spells of intermittent rain on Friday in Nagpur, with a 65 per cent chance of precipitation. The rain is likely to delay the start of the match or cause interruptions.
The pitch at the Vidarbha Cricket Association ground is a belter and batters are expected to make merry. Teams winning the toss usually like to bat first at Nagpur in the T20Is because the pitch gets slightly slower in the second half and shot-making becomes a tad difficult.
In the first match, India were let down by deplorable fielding and death-over bowling. Indian fielders dropped three catches and let Australian batsmen getaway off the hook. The reprieve for Matthew Wade, who was dropped by Harshal Patel, proved especially fatal as the left-hander cracked an unbeaten 21-ball 45 to drive his team to victory.
Due to atrocious death-overs bowling, India could not defend even a mammoth total of 208. Australia needed 41 runs in the last three overs and achieved the target with four balls to spare. Both Patel and Bhuvneshwar Kumar failed to bowl cannily and were rather unimaginative in their approach. Both of them were carted away with ease by Wade and other batsmen.
This isn’t the first time Indian bowlers bowled miserably in death-overs. Even in the recently concluded Asia Cup, Bhuvneshwar and other bowlers came unstuck. Bhuvneshwar, in particular, has been prodigiously profligate in the death-overs of late.
Jasprit Bumrah, who was rested for the first T20I, is almost certain to return for the Nagpur match as the series is on the line. His return is likely to significantly prop up India’s bowling, especially in death-overs.
In the first match, KL Rahul scored a fine half-century when his place in the team as an opener was under the scanner. The presence of Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya in the middle-order is perhaps India’s biggest strength as both of them are in sensational form. Rohit and Virat are usually reliable, though both of them have been rather inconsistent in this format recently.
On the other hand, Australia are looking like a formidable team despite the fact that their four top players – David Warner, Mitch Marsh, Marcus Stoinis and Mitchell Starc – have been rested for this series. Cameron Green grabbed the opportunity and belted a whirlwind fifty in the first match after being promoted as an opener. Aaron Finch has been in excellent form for the last year as an opener, and Josh Inglish, along with Wade, is clinical in death-overs.
The only chink in their armour is perhaps the lack of a fifth-bowling option, as both Green and Maxwell looked too innocuous in the first match.
Australia have been on a roll in the T20I format ever since winning the last T20 World Cup and they would like to continue their sparkling form going into the marquee tournament, which begins next month in their backyard.
India Squad: Rohit Sharma (Captain), KL Rahul (vice-captain), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Dinesh Karthik (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya, R. Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohd. Shami, Harshal Patel, Deepak Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah
Australia Squad: Aaron Finch (Captain), Steven Smith, Tim David, Glenn Maxwell, Ashton Agar, Cameron Green, Daniel Sams, Sean Abbott, Josh Inglis, Matthew Wade, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa, Nathan Ellis