The self-anointed big boys of world cricket are going at it at the Adelaide Oval. The neutrals may struggle to pick a side, but one thing is certain – it will be a blockbuster occasion.
Familiarity will breed competition in this instance, given what’s at stake. Just a few months ago these two sides spent a concentrated fortnight at one another’s throats, with India taking the T20I leg with a pretty convincing 2-1 series win. But things are different now, very much in a good way. Jos Buttler is a more accomplished captain, settled in the rigmarole of the job and his tactics. Meanwhile, Virat Kohli has rediscovered his mojo.
England will feel they have an edge of sorts, what with two must-win games ticked off against New Zealand and Sri Lanka to get them out of Group 1. There is a renewed confidence about them as setters having long been chasers, to the extent that the toss may be academic provided evening dew is minimal.
As for India, the only team to have won four matches in the Super 12 stage, the pressure to go on to a reunion with Pakistan at the MCG in Sunday’s final will be great, though no greater than what their players usually contend with. Quite apart from their obvious strength is a cerebral approach to their T20 work that gives them a unique edge over opponents before they have set foot on the park. Much of England’s public preparation has been on bigging that up while privately racking their brains to take them down a few pegs.
The shorter square boundaries in Adelaide, as detailed in our Tactics Board, will play to the strengths of both batting line-ups. That no Englishman other than openers Buttler and Alex Hales have hit more than one six in the tournament speaks of a middle order that hasn’t quite come to the party. And while it’s tempting to say they are “due”, India will no doubt be focussing on keeping them quiet. One expects Sam Curran’s emergence as Buttler’s go-to death bowler will also face its sternest test against a side who are striking at 11.90 at the death.
Wherever you look, there are match-ups that could be regarded as game-changing bouts. Don’t miss any of them.