Kolkata: Who could be the first among equals? This could well be the theme of the T20I series decider between India and England, to be played again at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Saturday.
Nobody could have scripted it better than the way the series had panned out so far - matches going either way alternately, some outstanding batsmanship from the likes of Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, Virat Kohli and men like Jofra Archer and Mark Wood showing that there is room for quality fast bowling on what turned to be perfect decks for this format. If chasing to win was the template in the first three matches, with the dew making the job difficult for the bowlers, the hosts turned the idea around on it’s head with easily their most complete performance in the series in the crunch match on Thursday.
India, who went into the series with the intention of trying out a few combinations in the shortest format with an eye towards the T20 World Cup at home later this year, must be more than happy with the resources at their disposal - irrespective of what happens in the fifth game. The Virat Kohli-led side, which often suffered in the past due to over-reliance on a few key players like the top three of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli himself, now have the resources to attack in all situations with the maturing of Shreyas Iyer and the X-factor with the emergence of Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav and of course the presence of Hardik Pandya.
More than 24 hours after his debut innings at number three, the social media has not stopped marvelling about that 31-ball 57 by Suryakumar, simply ‘SKY’ to his teammates. It was not a surprise really that the Mumbai Indians batsman was amply rewarded with a place in the squad for the upcoming ODI series. KL Rahul’s form as an opener is certainly a problem, but Kohli will be loathe to replace him in the final game - though it would make a perfect sense to try out young Kishan with Rohit for the left-right combination.
With Kishan and Suryakumar making massive impact in their maiden series, Haryana allrounder Rahul Tewatia is the only one in the squad left to make his debut and that could happen on Saturday. The team management gave a break to the young leg spinner Rahul Chahar on Thursday and he got into the groove quickly.
England, on the other hand, will expect Jos Buttler and world’s No.1 T20 batsman Dawid Malan to show more consistency with the bat. They have been a bit too over-dependant on the opening combination of Roy and Buttler to deliver with Jonny Bairstow lacking in consistency and captain Eoin Morgan appearing somewhat short on confidence.
The dynamic duo of Jofra Archer and Mark Wood have been impressive but they have not got a lot of support from Chris Jordan, who leaked most runs in the fourth T20.
Over then, to Motera...
Catch the match
India vs England
Fifth T20 International
Match Starts at 5.30 pm (UAE)