A second new era of English cricket this summer begins on Thursday evening when England and India battle it out in the first of three T20 internationals to take place over the next few days, as both look to continue their preparations for the T20 World Cup later in the year.
After the two nations had to finish off the Test series last week both are devoid of some first-choice players for these matches but with spots in both squads up for grabs those on show certainly have plenty to play for.
Under Eoin Morgan, England established themselves as one of the leading lights in 20 over international cricket and now that he has moved aside it will be down to Jos Buttler to pick up the baton and run with it. Given that Buttler served under Morgan for so long you wouldn’t expect the philosophy of this England side to change but the one thing a Morgan led England team could never completely grasp was the ability to restrict the opposition at the death. That is the task facing Buttler over the coming months.
It remains to be seen whether that will be the priority straight away or if he would like his players to go out and show the freedom they were able to display under Morgan. It will also be interesting to see if Buttler is going to pick his strongest XI from this squad three times or whether he will take a look at one or two on the extreme fringes of the squad. The one thing we do know is how England bowl at the death is likely to determine the outcome of this one.
Having lost the World Test Championship final at the Ageas Bowl last summer, India might not have fond memories of this opening venue of the series. The positive for India is that their players, and this squad in particular, have played a lot of T20 internationals in recent times with it featuring against South Africa back home before a couple of matches in Ireland last week. They have also played a couple of warm up matches in England against some counties so they certainly don’t have a lack of preparation as an excuse.
The one thing we’ve seen from India in a lot of those matches was that their batting hasn’t always delivered on the promise they carry and also in a couple of games against South Africa in particular they were found wanting at the death with the ball in hand. The latter would be a concern because we’ve seen all summer that England batters pile the pressure onto the opposition regardless of the format or the circumstances.
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England will be without those who were in action at Edgbaston earlier in the week and there is no Adil Rashid either so Matt Parkinson is expected to get a chance to shine. The absence of Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow could see Harry Brook filling a middle order spot. Richard Gleeson may have to wait for his debut.
India have Rohit Sharma back for this series after he missed the South Africa and Ireland games to prepare for a Test match which he was ultimately unavailable for having tested positive for Covid. It would appear the only choice the skipper has to make is whether Umran Malik gets a game or if there is a debut for Arshdeep Singh.
I’m expecting a high scoring match here. I think England will be all out to establish themselves under Buttler as an aggressive juggernaut and they should get the perfect pitch to do that on here. I’m not going to look too much at scores on this ground because Hampshire don’t tend to go all out in the powerplay like England will but it is noticeable that one of the best scores Hampshire have put up in the Vitality Blast this season came on one of the wickets that they use when the cameras are here.
England bat powerfully and deep but don’t really have that killer bowler like a Jofra Archer or an Adil Rashid and while India probably don’t bat quite as deep there is certainly enough in their side to put up a number of runs against this England attack. India have some good bowlers but I don’t think that is going to worry this England side. In that Hampshire match I mentioned they 199/6 and it was only good enough by 22 runs so you can score on these Ageas Bowl wickets and I expect more than 324.5 runs in this one.
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