It is very rare in global tournaments that teams which are on par with each other would clash in the semifinals, instead of the general expectation of them meeting in the final.
At a sunny Adelaide, India and England, two sides with equal amounts of firepower, will be vying for a spot in the final when they meet at the Adelaide Oval in the second semifinal of the Men’s T20 World Cup on Thursday.
Clashes between England and India in T20Is have been frequent and competitive in the past few years, including in the bilateral series in July. But they have not met in a T20 World Cup match for a decade, or in the knockout phase of an ICC tournament since the 2013 Champions Trophy final.
While India entered the knockouts on the back of superlative batting from Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav and hugely effective bowling attack in Arshdeep Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Hardik Pandya and Ravichandran Ashwin, England bat very deep, possess all-round strength and have the pacers as well as spinners to challenge oppositions.
First things first, Thursday’s semifinal is going to be played on a used pitch. With short square boundaries and longer front of the square dimensions at Adelaide Oval, it makes the toss crucial and batting first becomes all the more important. The importance of spinners also increases as the pitch tends to be sluggish later in the match.
In that case, India would really want for their top order to set the tone right in the first six overs. In the power-play phase of the tournament, India have scored at 5.96 runs per over, which is less than England’s 6.79 runs. With the new ball moving around, it has meant that India had to move away from their ultra-attacking approach to being cautious.
Moreover, the highest opening partnership in the tournament between Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul is just 27. Kohli currently leads the run-charts though he has been a little cautious against spin, while Suryakumar is third on the list with an extremely-high strike rate of 193.96.
Suryakumar, the right-handed batter who is also the top-ranked T20I batter, has also been a huge force behind India having the best run-rate in last four overs of the tournament at 11.90 runs per over and changing the tempo of the innings to propel India from a par score to a winning total.
With the dilemma between Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant still on apart from Hardik Pandya doing nothing worthwhile with the bat after the opener against Pakistan, India need to carefully ponder over who between the two wicketkeeper-batters has to be picked for an extremely crunch game.
With the ball, left-arm pacer Arshdeep has been a revelation with 10 scalps in five matches while senior right-arm pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar has an economy rate of 5.4 and has also dismissed Jos Buttler five times in T20 matches. But the pocket of weakness which India can look to exploit could come through their spinners.
With left-arm spinner Axar Patel not excelling much in Australian conditions, he could be replaced by leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal to team up with off-spin of Ravichandran Ashwin. Moreover, with England’s batting strike-rate against spin being just 100.5 and averaging just 22 in the tournament, it is an area which India will definitely look to exploit.
Though they have the power and style of Buttler, Alex Hales, Ben Stokes, Liam Livingstone, Harry Brook and Moeen Ali with the bat, England’s batting hasn’t clicked in unison yet in the tournament.
Their death-overs bowling, which was a huge weakness in last year’s tournament, has become a huge strength, as seen from economy rate of six and picking seven wickets in this phase, with left-arm pacer Sam Curran being the leader in their end overs bowling transformation, while the right-arm pace duo of Stokes and Chris Woakes handle the fast-bowling duties upfront.
England also have some fitness concerns with Dawid Malan nursing a groin injury and tearaway pacer Mark Wood having body stiffness. India also had some hand-in-the-mouth moments when Rohit and Kohli took some blows in the practice sessions, but were fine later.
Come Thursday, and the Adelaide Oval will be bright and breathtaking in readiness for a clash of equals to decide the second finalist of Men’s T20 World Cup.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Dinesh Karthik (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Arshdeep Singh and Mohammad Shami.