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India-England T20: Test of tactics with eye on Cup pitch

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Forty-eight hours after losing the Edgbaston Test, a new-look Indian side will take on Jos Buttler’s England in the opening T20I at Rose Bowl in Southampton on Thursday. The good news for India is that Rohit Sharma is fit to lead after having recovered from Covid-19.

After Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes it is the turn of Matthew Mott and Jos Buttler to lay down the yardstick of performance ahead of the T20 World Cup. None of the members who featured in the rescheduled fifth Test will be in action in the T20I series opener.

India’s regular captain Rohit said it was tough for him to watch the Test match from the sidelines while recovering from Covid-19.

“It was hard to watch from the sidelines. It’s never an easy situation when you miss games, especially an important game like that when the series was on the line for us. Speaking of (Covid) symptoms, I struggled a little bit for a couple of days, but I am happy that I am standing back on my feet, nice and healthy as I look forward to the T20I series followed by the ODI series,” Rohit said.

India, who have played four warm-up T20s (against Ireland, Northamptonshire and Derbyshire) in the last 10 days, have won 13 of the 15 T20Is since crashing out of last year’s World Cup while not fielding their top players. It’s a formidable record in a fickle format.

But does India have the T20 tactical wherewithal to counter big-hitting sides on flat surfaces, the kinds of which are likely in Australia? Rahul Dravid will look to sort out the loopholes in India’s line-up ahead of the showpiece event.

The average first-innings score at the venue in this year’s T20 Blast has been 165. Curiously, five of the seven games here this season have been won by teams batting first.

Rohit is expected to open alongside Ishan Kishan. Last match centurion (versus Ireland) Deepak Hooda will get a look-in before Virat Kohli returns for the second. They have choices to make in the fast bowling department and could hand Arshdeep Singh an India debut after a pair of impressive showings against County sides.

India have picked at least two wickets inside Powerplay in seven of their last nine matches, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar leading the way with 13 Powerplay wickets. How he fares could decide the course of the match.

For the record, India have won each of the last three bilateral T20I series between these two sides.

Match starts: 10.30pm IST, live on Sony Six & Sony Ten 3

The Telegraph

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