India are in town, and that usually means packed stadiums anywhere in the world, but Old Trafford on Tuesday will be some way short of a full house. With the T20I coinciding with England’s round-of-16 FIFA World Cup clash against Colombia, the fans who do show up will be forgiven if they glance at the replay screen a little wistfully, wishing they were watching Alli rather than Ali.
There will be a lowish-key feel to this game, and in some ways it isn’t a particularly significant one, the fate of most T20Is when a World T20 isn’t looming large. But this game could have knock-on effects on the weeks and months ahead. This is the first India-England clash of a long summer of India-England clashes, an opportunity to land an early punch or two.
Both teams will also use these games to build towards next year’s 50-over World Cup, and gear their white-ball game towards the flat batting conditions expected in this part of the world.
England’s standing as world cricket’s most fearsome ODI line-up is predicated upon their treating ODIs as extended T20 games. Having made 221 in their last T20I, at Edgbaston last week, they will want to show they can flex their batting muscle just as much against an Indian attack containing the swing of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and the wristspin of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.
India, for their part, know they are only one or two ingredients short of a line-up that could be as relentlessly aggressive as England’s. The search for those ingredients, however, has been long and frustrating, and it isn’t over yet. One priority is finding a settled slot in the top four for KL Rahul, and the other is figuring out which of the other options – of whom Dinesh Karthik, Manish Pandey and Suresh Raina are part of their current squad – is the best fit at No. 6.
If India can find answers to those questions on Tuesday, and if England continue their barnstorming batting form, Old Trafford might even forget the football.
England: WWLLL (last five completed games, most recent first)
In the spotlight
England’s stand-in coach Paul Farbrace may have said it isn’t so, but is Joe Root‘s place in England’s T20 line-up under threat? Given the riches of explosive talent around him, and given the imminent return of Ben Stokes from injury, Root might need to make a couple of defining contributions against India to reinforce his value in the shortest format.
He had a sensational IPL as a wicket-taker in the Powerplay overs, and with Jasprit Bumrah out injured, there’s no better time than now for Umesh Yadav to stake a claim to be part of India’s first-choice T20 attack.
England (probable): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jos Buttler (wk), 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Alex Hales, 6 Jonny Bairstow, 7 Moeen Ali, 8 David Willey, 9 Liam Plunkett, 10 Chris Jordan, 11 Adil Rashid
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 KL Rahul, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Dinesh Karthik/Manish Pandey, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Umesh Yadav, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Pitch and conditions
Old Trafford usually offers more pace and bounce than other English pitches, though not a lot of seam movement. The pitch for the fifth England-Australia ODI here just over a week ago provided some turn as well, and Moeen Ali prospered to pick up a four-wicket haul. The pitch for Tuesday’s game is a different one, though Kohli noted in his pre-match press conference that it looked a little dry. Expect both teams, therefore, to play two spinners.
The weather leading up to the game has been warm and dry, with temperatures in the mid-to-late 20s (Celsius). No rain is expected on Tuesday.
Stats and trivia
England have a 6-5 win-loss record against India in T20Is, and have won all three of their meetings in England so far.
Virat Kohli is eight runs short of becoming the first Indian, and the fourth batsman overall, to 2000 in T20Is. Rohit Sharma isn’t too far behind – he needs 51 to get there.
Umesh Yadav has only played two T20Is so far, the first in August 2012 against Sri Lanka and the second last Friday against Ireland. He missed 65 matches between his two appearances – an Indian record. One of his potential opponents on Tuesday, Liam Plunkett, holds the overall record for matches missed between T20I appearances (74). Incidentally, Plunkett’s gap years also came between his debut and second match.
Kuldeep Yadav (11.2) and Yuzvendra Chahal (13.0) have the best and third-best strike rates among all spinners who have bowled in ten or more T20I innings.
“We expect England to come hard at us. And we certainly want to play positive and hard-fought cricket. It’s going to be an exciting series for sure, we believe that we have the side to put up a great fight.”
India captain Virat Kohli
“Generally it is a different challenge particularly when you play against subcontinent teams. It normally exposes sides like ourselves and South Africa and Australia to spin, reverse swing, different challenges to that we are normally used to.”
England captain Eoin Morgan