keybattles

Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai gears up for the second warm-up match between India A and England XI sans the ‘Dhoni… Dhoni…’ chants. Taking charge for India A will be local boy Ajinkya Rahane, who will be making a return post injury. Brabourne on Tuesday witnessed MS Dhoni captaining an Indian side for the last time. Fireworks were aplenty but India A ended up on the wrong side. England have registered their first win in this tour and will look forward to continue the momentum against a new-look India A with a fresh set of players. Ahead of the clash, Suvajit Mustafi looks at the possible key battles.

Suresh Raina vs Ben Stokes: Raina has been one of India’s most explosive limited-overs cricketers but has been still left out from the ODI side. He will look forward to make a strong case for himself and play an assuring knock ahead of the T20I series. Meanwhile, Ben Stokes was rested for the first warm-up game. He is a key member of the English side across formats and therefore the workload is managed accordingly. Like Raina, Stokes bats in the middle-order and his side will expect more fireworks from his willow.

England also rely a lot on Stokes’ medium-pace bowling. A feisty character, expect Stokes to pepper Raina with short-pitched bowling and when Raina bowls he will eye a few lusty blows. This will be a contest to look forward.

Shahbaz Nadeem vs Sam Billings: Nadeem is an unlucky chap. Despite the wicket galore in domestic seasons, he has not made it to the national side. Ravindra Jadeja and Akshar Patel’s presence has sidelined the talented Jharkhand bowler. Here he has a chance to prove himself in the national colours. Kuldeep Yadav, with his chinaman bowling, exposed England’s vulnerability against spin bowling and Nadeem will be expected to further rupture that.

Billings was England’s hero in the first warm-up game and his 93 went on to be the differentiator. He will be up against Nadeem’s guile, expect a range of reverse sweeps, and slog sweeps when these two encounter.

Vinay Kumar vs Jos Buttler: The Mumbai Indians’ mates will clash in Mumbai at a different venue. Buttler must have played a lot of Vinay Kumar in the nets. The Karnataka captain is renowned for his wily bowling and Buttler in the last year and half has been the most destructive batsman in ODIs, especially since ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. This should be an exciting contest.

Rishabh Pant vs Liam Plunkett: Young Pant has been making headlines since his success in the Under-19 World Cup last year. He has been smashing bowlers in domestic cricket and is fresh from a 34-ball 84 not out in the DY Patil T20 tournament. Rewarded with a T20I selection, the teenager will look forward to make most of the opportunity in national colours.

Plunkett did not play the first game and will play this one. He is a wicket-taking bowler and eye for the destructive Pant early on. However, Plunkett has a habit of leaking runs and if the Indian teenager capitalises on that, the spectators at CCI will be up for a treat.

Ajinkya Rahane vs Adil Rashid: Rahane had a disappointing Test series against England. It came as a surprise that the English spinners easily foxed him. He misread an Adil Rashid googly in this last innings in the Test series to depart leg before for a nought.

Captain Rahane will open for India A. He has been under fire with a string of low scores and a dismal ODI form has fuelled further criticism. It will be a matter of time before Eoin Morgan employs his spinners with Rahane at crease.

Rashid had an impressive 2016, claiming 29 wickets from 17 ODIs at 28.34. Rashid’s leg-breaks against Rahane’s class will be a contest to watch out for.