A dominant win by India in the opening T20I against a spin-wary England has set the tone as the hosts remain on the back-foot when the two sides clash in the second T20 International at Cardiff on Friday.
Kuldeep Yadav took 5-24 and KL Rahul scored a stunning unbeaten second T20I century as the Men in Blue produced a fine all-round display to stun the hosts by eight wickets in Manchester for an early lead on this tour. A win on Friday would seal the three-match T20I series for Virat Kohli’s high-flying brigade.
In fact, India stand on the brink of a sixth successive T20I series’ win – a run stretching back to their 2-1 win over New Zealand in November 2017.
In terms of ICC Rankings, a 2-0 series’ lead will allow India to close the gap with second-placed Australia, while a 3-0 whitewash will help them overleap to second behind top-ranked Pakistan.
Australia will have to win both their next two games in the ongoing tri-series in Zimbabwe to stay above India.
A loss on Friday will see England drop down to rank seven below New Zealand, South Africa and West Indies, respectively.
It will be a surprising downturn for the high-flying English team, one of the better in limited-overs’ cricket at the moment. It is a stark reminder of their poor winning ratio nevertheless, having won only 5 out of their last 10 T20 internationals.
The big question facing England is how to contend with the unorthodox wrist spin of Kuldeep Yadav.
In the aftermath of their loss on Tuesday, both skipper Eoin Morgan and ace batsman Jos Buttler have urged their teammates to show more patience at the crease and watch the ball carefully.
But with such a short turnaround in the fixtures’ list, it is easier said than done.
The English camp will deploy the services of spin-bowling machine ‘Merlyn’ at Cardiff. A scarcity of unorthodox wrist spinners to practice against is one of the key reasons for this move, as the spin-bowling machine is capable of replicating every style of delivery.
An English team last used it ahead of the 2005 Ashes, when they were practicing to contend with Shane Warne.
A key reason underlined by Morgan after the first defeat was that the middle-order batsmen, Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root, who both got stumped off successive googlies, needed more time to settle in.
Despite the loss, one of the key strengths for England is their top-order’s ability to handle pace and they would like another fast start at Cardiff.
Even with Kuldeep causing all sorts of trouble for the hosts, India wouldn’t like to to pull things back after a high-flying English start once again.
The visitors are unlikely to make a change and disturb their winning combination and the pacers will have to learn from the experience of bowling on such batsmen-friendly pitches.
England’s top-order, in particular Jason Roy, doesn’t enjoy facing spin in the powerplay overs, and India might opt for Krunal Pandya, who is proficient at bowling economical left-arm spin.
However, it is tough to see the Indian team management making space for him in the eleven after just one game. Instead, they might back Yuzvendra Chahal to deliver any initial spin overs, despite being taken for runs in Manchester.
Weather could play a part in the game here at the Sophia Gardens. After enjoying a sunny welcome both in Dublin and Manchester, the team was greeted to typical English grey skies, light rain and chill when they arrived in Cardiff on Wednesday.
It is expected to clear out for match day, but rain curtailed the last game these two sides played here in 2014.
India had won that ODI with an all-round performance from Suresh Raina.
England pacer Tom Curran has been ruled out of the remaining T20Is and the ODI series owing to a left side strain. For the ODIs, his brother Sam has been named as replacement.
India: Virat Kohli ©, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Suresh Raina, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Krunal Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Hardik Pandya, Siddarth Kaul, Umesh Yadav.
England: Eoin Morgan ©, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Jos Buttler (wk), Sam Curran, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, David Willey, Dawid Malan.
Match starts at: 10 pm IST
(With inputs from agencies)