Melbourne: England’s famed bowling attack faces a big test against the might of Indian batting when both teams face in the Twenty20 World Cup semi-finals in Adelaide on Thursday.
England’s bowlers have helped cover for their batting’s patchy display. The challenge may be even greater for Jos Buttler’s team, with express paceman Mark Wood joining No 3 Dawid Malan as an injury doubt for the clash at Adelaide Oval.
Barring a solid win over New Zealand, England’s trip to the last four has been a rocky one with a shock loss to Ireland, a washout against Australia and unimpressive wins over Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
Only opener Alex Hales is ranked in the top 10 of the runs list among players who competed exclusively in the Super 12’s.
However, the bowling of Sam Curran and Wood, with support from Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes, has carried England through.
They may have their hands full against India’s heavy hitters, though, with a rejuvenated Virat Kohli and the marauding Suryakumar Yadav in ominous form.
The battle at the death is likely to be important, if not decisive, in the teams’ first meeting in the tournament’s knockout rounds given England’s bowlers and India’s batters have been standouts in the final overs. It will be England’s first match of the tournament at Adelaide Oval but India have already played at the ground, cruising to victory over Bangladesh.
Kohli's Adelaide record
Kohli may be jumping out of his skin to take strike in Adelaide, where he has scored five hundreds and three fifties across 14 innings in all formats.
England have bitter memories from their last World Cup match at the ground, where Bangladesh knocked them out of the 50-overs tournament in 2015.
That proved a turning point, with England reaching the semi-finals or better at every World Cup since.
“There’s some moments or memories that will not always be good ones, unfortunately,” Buttler, who played in the 2015 defeat along with several current team mates, said on Wednesday.
Great place to be
“To be now in a semi-final and going into tournaments that we should perform well is a great place to be as a team.”
Buttler added: “We will see how they pull up. We are trying to give them as long as possible.”
While England sweat on the fitness of key players, India’s sole selection dilemma is whether to bring back Dinesh Karthik as wicketkeeper or stick with Rishabh Pant as a left-handed batting option to counter England’s spinners.
India failed to reach the knockout rounds in last year’s T20 World Cup in UAE, but have cruised into the last four Down Under with only a blip against South Africa.
“We can take pride in ourselves from where we have come,” said captain Rohit Sharma. “One bad game can’t truly define who you are.”
On who will play tomorrow, Pant or Karthik, Indian skipper responded: “What is going to happen tomorrow? I wouldn’t be able to tell you right now, but both of the keepers will be in play for sure.”
Rohit, who has managed just one fifty from five matches in Australia, sustained a blow to his forearm in the nets on Wednesday but is fit to lead the side in the semi-finals. “It was a little bruising, but it’s absolutely fine now.”
Don't want India-Pakistan final
Buttler is excited to play in the semi-finals. “We are all really excited about the match, in my opinion one of the best stadiums in the world against a brilliant Indian team which I am sure will be well supported tomorrow,” England skipper said. “It’s going to be a great occasion and these are the times you want to be involved as a player.”
Buttler also knows that those Indian fans will be hoping for victory to set up a blockbuster final against arch-rivals Pakistan.
“We certainly don’t want an India-Pakistan final,” added the batsman-wicketkeeper, who took over the England white-ball captaincy earlier this year from Eoin Morgan.
“So trying to do what we can to make sure that it doesn’t happen.”