More than seven weeks after England played their first day of cricket in India, it’s time for the finale of the tour. It’s a Sunday afternoon fixture, the ODI series is tied 1-1, and there’s everything to play for. What more do you want?
Well, if you’re Virat Kohli, you want more from your spinners. In 35 overs, they’ve conceded 283 runs at an economy of 8.09 for just one wicket. Be it IPL experience or pure skill (or a combination of both), England’s batsmen have been supremely confident against the spinners. Some said dropping Kuldeep Yadav after one game would be too harsh on him, but now it seems like India have no choice. After spending a good period on the bench, it might be time for Yuzvendra Chahal to show why he should be the first spinner on the ODI teamsheet every time.
And then there’s the dreaded ‘I’ word: intent. Par scores can’t simply be judged by the surface you’re playing on, but also by the opposition you’re against. India had a particular method in the T20Is. They threw caution to the wind while batting, even if it meant they lost two of the five games, but that template has gone out of the window in the ODIs. They’ll need the top order to either score quicker or start their late-overs surge earlier.
Either way, the final ODI will be a test of India’s brand of batting, more so if Kohli has a hat-trick of losing the toss. Finding the gaps and running hard twos in the first 30 overs is usually fine, but against England, more boundary shots are needed from the top order. Friday’s target of 337 was chased down with 6.3 overs to spare and even in the first ODI, let’s be honest, England were well ahead of the game for the first 20 overs of the second innings.
England’s batting remains their biggest strength. Their philosophy has remained unchanged, the openers are firing, Ben Stokes has been on a rampage and the injury-replacements have chipped in. They know the fast bowlers are inexperienced, more so if Mark Wood is not fit for the decider, but that’s not in their control. However, they’ll be happy the way Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali have performed. At the start of the spells, they have done enough to ensure India don’t get on top of them, and the hosts are, perhaps, leaving some runs out there, by not going harder at the duo.
Overall, it’s a fitting finale to the tour. The team that has lost the first match of every series has gone on to win it. That was India in the first two occasions, but can England complete their own comeback? If they do, it will be a gentle reminder of why they are world champions.
(Last five completed matches first)
In the spotlight
When it’s a big game, expect to see a different version of Ben Stokes (remember Headingley and Lord’s 2019?). In the first ODI, his 3 for 34 broke Indian partnerships every time they looked to change gears. In the second game, he hit the fastest 99 in ODI history. India will be hoping Stokes’ numbers are a mere footnote in the match’s statistics because if it isn’t so, it’s likely his contributions will be match-winning. In the last game, his bowling numbers were under par and he could not get that one extra run to dedicate a century to his late father. He’ll be looking to change both those things.
Hardik Pandya has not bowled in the series yet, leaving India with only five bowling options. But he did bowl in the T20Is, so even if Kohli uses Hardik for just four overs, it will reduce the load on the off-colour bowler and could be the missing piece in the Indian bowling jigsaw. There’s also more that Hardik, the batsman, can do. In the XI, he is one of the best hitters of spin and could do to Moeen and Rashid what Stokes did in the second ODI to Kuldeep and Krunal Pandya. If the top order has set up a solid base, it’s worth sending him above KL Rahul and push the envelope on what total India can achieve. He hit 35 off 16 balls last game. Extrapolate that score if he faced, say, 50 balls.
All India’s batting will be trying, is to add 10-15% more runs to their scores, so that part of the XI should stay unchanged. They could tinker with the bowling though, Chahal for Kuldeep being the likeliest change. Washington Sundar could also replace Krunal Pandya, after the latter conceded 72 in six overs on Friday, although there isn’t any evidence that Sundar would improve that. Among pacers, one of Prasidh Krishna or Shardul Thakur could be replaced by T Natarajan, both for his left-handedness and for his ability to execute yorkers more consistently. Keeping Thakur gives the team more batting depth, which might be a consideration.
India (possible): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Rishabh Pant, 5 KL Rahul (wk), 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Krunal Pandya/Washington Sundar, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Shardul Thakur, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Prasidh Krishna/T Natarajan
If Wood is fit, he will replace either Reece Topley or Tom Curran, the latter being more likely after conceding 83 runs in the last match. According to England, the fitness results of Wood and Sam Billings will only be known on match day.
England (possible): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow, 3 Ben Stokes, 4 Dawid Malan, 5 Jos Buttler (capt & wk), 6 Liam Livingstone, 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Sam Curran, 9 Mark Wood/Tom Curran, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Reece Topley
Pitch and conditions
With not much in there for spinners, Pune is as ‘international’ a surface you can get in India. A good batting pitch in the afternoon turns into a great batting pitch in the evening. For the team batting first, aiming for scores in excess of 330 should be a bare minimum.
Stats and trivia
- India are looking to avoid a third-straight ODI series defeat. They lost 1-2 in Australia and 0-3 in New Zealand.
- Dhawan needs 90 to become the 10th Indian to get 6000 ODI runs.
- Bairstow and Roy had hit 13 century stands as openers in ODI cricket, the most by an England pair and the fifth-highest among openers.
- In the last five matches at Pune, the average first-innings score has been 303.20 with the contests 3-2 in favour of the chasing side.
“We’ve said for a while we want to play in a certain fashion and push the boundaries of what we’re capable of as a side. That’s probably what I was most proud of – we got some criticism from the first game but came out and played in exactly the same fashion, which rings true to us”
Jos Buttler promises that England will play the same way for the decider
Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx
The Hundred offers something for bowlers and will keep captains alert | Cricket
Not sure if that was the intention, but the Hundred’s new playing conditions have a utility beyond the laughs. With the exception of a two-run penalty for a no-ball – which has been a feature of English domestic cricket – they are almost all geared to help the bowlers, the marginalised of the two participants in games of cricket. They will also make the fielding captain’s role more instrumental.
The advantage is admittedly not massive, and the batters will eventually catch up as they keep getting stronger and better, but anything is welcome in a format that keeps shrinking further and further for a bowler.
This should offset the no-ball penalty. Fifty-three no-balls were bowled in 60 matches in last year’s IPL. So let’s assume there is one no-ball bowled every match. Adding that extra run is not that big a punishment, but a shorter Powerplay is a huge incentive. The Powerplay in the Hundred is only 25% of the innings as against 30% in old-school T20 cricket. That’s one over fewer in a normal T20.
Tens = good for captains and bowlers
Imagine MS Dhoni being allowed to bowl Deepak Chahar’s quota out in the Powerplay (no disrespect to Chahar’s emergence as a decent death bowler too). Or if for a certain match, Rohit Sharma could keep all of Jasprit Bumrah’s deliveries for the death. They could if they were captaining in the Hundred.
The scope this gives bowlers and captains is immense. Imagine Dhoni walks in, and you have the option of bowling 10% of the innings from Sunil Narine without a break then and there. Dhoni strikes at slightly over 50 against Narine. And you don’t get away by playing a dot at the fifth ball; you are on strike for the start of the next five. The bowler, on the other hand, doesn’t have to nominate a “ten” at the start. So if a match-up gets away from him on the fifth ball, he can stop at five.
Analysis will come in as the database continues to build, but it breaks the templates that T20 cricket has fallen into and that can’t be bad.
And a quick guide to the main new rules/playing conditions pic.twitter.com/eNG2drlDHj
— Osman Samiuddin (@OsmanSamiuddin) July 21, 2021
Fives, as the umpire calls in the Hundred. Batters say they try to hit the first ball of a new over big to put the bowler under the pressure, but you also hear so often how a bowler has failed to get out of an over. The longer an over is, the more a batter gets a chance to line the bowler up. Perhaps in Test cricket you want it to be longer to set a batter up, but mostly in T20s, you are trying to get out of it without significant damage. The fewer the balls to constitute a mandatory set, the easier for a defensive bowler to get out of it without late damage.
Of course batters will adjust and start treating the fifth ball as they do the sixth in other T20s, but it will take some time. Can’t be a bad thing.
Last ball of the penultimate over is not a free hit
A team is seven or eight down. A tailender is batting with a specialist batter. Seven balls to go, the tailender on strike, and you often hear commentators say this is basically a free hit. If you connect, great; if you don’t, at least the specialist batter is on strike for the last over.
Not in the Hundred. The end changes only every two sets of fives. So at the end of the 19th five, the tailender will have to actually take a single to turn the strike over. Or keep facing.
New batter always on strike
Oh, so what if they sky one up and cross? Nope. Unlike in all other cricket, if a batter is out caught, it doesn’t matter if the batters in the middle crossed over. The new batter will be on strike. It might not sound as much to you, but ask a bowler who has forced or coaxed a batter to hit to his deep fielder but doesn’t get the luxury of bowling a new batter next ball because they crossed while the ball was in the air.
For wides, the umpires have been instructed to “apply a very strict and consistent interpretation of this Law”. The umpires hopefully will continue to use their discretion to allow wide yorkers, especially to batters who move around in the crease. Also it does defeat the purpose a little bit: the more the number of wides, the longer the match goes on.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Steven Smith ‘building up nicely’ in cautious rehab from elbow injury | Cricket
Steven Smith is making encouraging progress in his recovery from the elbow injury which ruled him out of the current Australia tours with the beginning of the domestic season a potential comeback target.
Smith was sidelined in the latter part of last season when the elbow problem flared up following the India series before returning briefly for New South Wales ahead of the IPL. While playing for Delhi Capitals he felt further pain and he was unavailable for the West Indies and Bangladesh trips.
He told cricket.com.au earlier this month that the Ashes series was his priority and he would be willing to forego the T20 World Cup if it ensured he would be fit for that.
A cautious approach has been taken with his rehab but he is currently increasing the amount of batting he can do as part of New South Wales’ pre-season.
“He’s been building it up nicely,” Phil Jaques, the New South Wales head coach, told ESPNcricinfo. “He’s been very conscientious about his rehab and in terms of how long he bats it for, he’s building up his time which is great and his elbow is responding really well to it.
“We’ve taken a really slow approach with him to make sure we don’t have too many setbacks by pushing too hard but we are stepping things up gradually. He’s definitely moving in the right direction, he’s not going backwards. Hopefully he’ll be ready to go once the season kicks off.
“I don’t think he really got rid of it last time so it came back…hopefully if he gets the tolerance through the tendon that he needs to then he should be able to manage it.”
How much cricket Smith plays for New South Wales this season depends on a lot of factors. There is potentially a small window for those selected for the T20 World Cup to play a few Marsh Cup matches in mid-September, but if Smith is part of that trip he won’t have any first-class cricket ahead of the Test season starting due to the quarantine period on return. There is also the resumption of the IPL to consider.
However, if he doesn’t make the World Cup there are up to five Sheffield Shield games available before the Afghanistan Test at the end of November.
The Sheffield Shield is set to start on September 28 with a schedule mapped out which is hoped will give players time to rest and prepare between matches which should be particularly advantageous for the quick bowlers.
“Last season, and there was no other way around it, there was certainly a big load for the quicks to turnaround really quickly,” Jaques said. “It allows us as coaching staff to prepare the players the best they can for each fixture which is what the Australian domestic summer has always built itself on, to be able to train and prepare for each game individually.”
Quite how the season eventually plays out remains uncertain amid Covid-19 and while there is confidence that hubs can be avoided Jaques believes players will again do what is needed despite the toll it can take. “As professionals we adapt where we need to and if that’s called upon again I think we’ll do it but if there’s ways around it we’ll look to explore that as well,” he said.
Towards the end of last season’s Sheffield Shield the decision was taken to revamp the New South Wales batting line-up after they had been bundled out for 32 by Tasmania. Lachlan Hearne, Matthew Gilkes and Baxter Holt were given a chance while faith was shown in Jason Sangha, who responded with a century against Queensland, and Jack Edwards who made a match-winning hundred in the Marsh Cup final.
“The ceiling is massive with those guys, they are super talented,” Jaques said. “They just need some experience and game time which they got some of last year. We are expecting them to go to another level this year and I’m sure that will come with experience. I was really happy with how they went, to be able to play a final will only put them in good stead. They are definitely the future and think we have a really good mix in the group.”
New South Wales will make a decision on their captaincy positions in the upcoming weeks. Last season Pat Cummins was given the role in the Marsh Cup while Peter Nevill led the Sheffield Shield side until he was absent at the end of the season for the birth of his child. Kurtis Patterson stood in for both formats.
“Whatever role Peter plays within our team he’s a leader, he’s a top guy, he’s someone the players look up to,” Jaques said. “Whoever is actually captaining they’ll be helped out by a lot of leaders.”
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Recent Match Report – Originals vs Invincibles 1st Match 2021
Kate Cross stars with three wickets for Originals, but victory is sealed with two balls to spare
Oval Invincibles 139 for 5 (van Niekerk 56*, Kapp 38, Cross 3-28) beat Manchester Originals 135 for 6 (Lee 42, Farrant 3-25) by five wickets
Kapp took the new ball for the Invincibles and emulated Sussex’s James Kirtley by starting a new format of the game with a wide, spraying one down the leg side to her compatriot Lee. But after an ignominious start, Kapp found both rhythm and nip, seaming the ball to beat Lee’s outside edge twice in her first set of five balls.
That was enough for van Niekerk to decide to leave her on for a second set of five balls, and the move was vindicated almost immediately, as the in-form Emma Lamb nicked her second ball through to Sarah Bryce. Umpire Tim Robinson was the only person in the ground to miss the noise as the ball passed the bat, and his not-out decision was quickly overturned via the DRS.
But with the powerplay shortened to 25 balls, the Originals decided to keep attacking. Lee dispatched Tash Farrant for consecutive boundaries to get herself up and running, before crunching Shabnim Ismail for four through point, while Georgie Boyce lashes consecutive fours off Kapp as the Invincibles conceded 31 runs in the final 15 balls of fielding restrictions.
Farrant had Lee caught at cover for an anchoring 42 off 39 and removed Kaur shortly after, dinking to short fine leg, but her 29 off 16 balls had added impetus to the innings. Cross and Ecclestone traded sixes in the final set of 10, and while Farrant added a third by having Ecclestone stumped thanks to a canny offcutter, the Originals’ 135 looked like a competitive score.
Invincibles’ false start
Cross struck twice in two balls during her first set of five, having Alice Capsey caught behind while lap-sweeping and crashing one into the top of Grace Gibbs’ stumps. Fran Wilson calmly flicked her hat-trick ball down to fine leg for four, but fell shortly after as she chipped a catch to Kaur at mid-off to give Laura Jackson a wicket with her first ball.
Cross’ third wicket, Georgia Adams plinking a pull to short midwicket, left the Invincibles four down inside 32 balls and reeling, but van Niekerk cut and pulled hard against the spin, trying to marshal the strike in partnership with Kapp and getting a life on 30 when Kaur put her down at mid-off.
Van Niekerk back-foot punched Hartley for four more to take the equation to 16 off 10 balls before Ecclestone’s final set of five, and when Villiers slapped her second legal ball over long-on, the required rate was a run a ball. With six to win off the last over, Villiers backed away and squeezed Cross’ yorker away behind square on the off side, before van Niekerk’s thick outside edge sealed the deal with two balls to spare.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
The Hundred offers something for bowlers and will keep captains alert | Cricket
Steven Smith ‘building up nicely’ in cautious rehab from elbow injury | Cricket
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