1st T20I: Can BBL-powered Australia surprise India?
Serveral players are coming off a remarkable BBL stint heading into the T20Is against India. (AFP Image)

Of Australia‘s recent wretched run in limited-overs cricket, their best result was the drawn T20I series against India in November. Sure enough, the second T20I resulted in a washout, and although many believed India would have successfully chased down 133 to win, the 1-1 draw was a relief considering they were whitewashed in UAE.

Three months later, it’s India’s turn to host them. The significance of these two T20Is may not be much but promises to help both sides mix and match ahead of what will be India’s final stop before the World Cup. Suddenly, the interest-level increases tenfold. India start overwhelming favourites playing at home, but Australia would take heart from the fact that they have in periods, been able to push India, and that the home team itself has been found wanting in a few areas, as evident from the series loss to New Zealand.

Australia have many players coming off stints in the Big Bash League. Nine of Australia’s 15-man squad for the T20 series played at least eleven BBL matches in the 2018-19 edition. Six players in Australia’s squad featured in this year’s Big Bash final, including Glenn Maxwell and skipper Aaron Finch himself, who led the Melbourne Renegades to their maiden BBL title. Player of the Tournament D’Arcy Short played 15 BBL games this season for Hobart Hurricanes scoring 637 runs at 53.08 average. Marcus Stoinis isn’t far behind with 553 runs.

India may have endured a small blip in the New Zealand T20s, but with Jasprit Bumrah and Virat Kohli back in the squad, the pendulum swings right back in the host’s favour. Hardik Pandya has been ruled out, but Vijay Shankar, who has time and again stressed on the amount of confidence he gained from those couple of important knocks he played. In Pandya’s absence, Shankar has another opportunity to impress the selectors. Mayank Markande becomes the X-factor in all this and going by India’s track record of handing players international debuts, the legspinner will nor remain uncapped by the end of the third game.

Date: February 24, 2019

Time: 1900 IST

Venue: Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium, Visakhapatnam

Weather: Clear skies with a high of 27 degree

Teams

India

India’s batting goes deep. From the final T20I which India played in New Zealand, a returning Bumrah will take Khaleel Ahmed’s place and is expected to share the new ball with Umesh Yadav, while Kohli slots right back at his patent No. 3 position. Shankar drops two places down at No. 5, while Yuzvendra Chahal and Krunal Pandya are expected to be the two spinners. The toss-up for the fifth bowling option is between Sidharth Kaul and Markande but the dryness of the surface might just offer the legspinner his India cap.

Playing XI: 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Rishabh Pant, 5 Krunal Pandya 6 Vijay Shankar, 7 MS Dhoni 8 Yuzvendra Chahal, 9 Umesh Yadav, 10 Mayank Markande. Sidharth Kaul 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Australia

Short did not have a series to remember in the previous T20I series but being the highest run-getter of the BBL, he is likely to open the batting along with Finch. Shaun Marsh should take care of the middle order followed by the explosive Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis. Jason Behrendorff did well in his last series in India in 2017 and the ODIs last month. Australia should learn from their mistakes and they’re likely to play Azam Zampa ahead of Nathan Lyon. Pat Cummins and Jhye Richardson should be the other two fast bowling options.

Probable XI: 1 Aaron Finch (capt), 2 D’ Arcy Short, 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Shaun Marsh, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Alex Carey, 8 Adam Zampa, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Jason Behrendorff, 10 Jhye Richardson

Stats and Trivia

– Bumrah is two strikes away from 50 T20I wickets.
– Kohli averages 61 from 13 T20I innings against Australia with five half-centuries in those games.

Quotes

“I think the guys coming off the Big Bash have played a lot of T20 cricket and I think we’ll treat these as some pretty big games of T20 cricket leading into the World Cup next year in Australia.” – Australia wicketkeeper batsman Alex Carey.

“We’re more or less sorted (with our World Cup plans). But through the course of the series, you might see something which might surprise you as a team and which you might want to change immediately – India captain Virat Kohli.