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by Dan Roebuck
Redemption for England a Possibility as Tour Comes to its Conclusion.
The last time England played Twenty20 cricket in India they fell at the final hurdle in the World Cup, the West Indies beating them by four wickets in April 2016. Ben Stokes was distraught as Carlos Brathwaite smashed the last over of the match to all parts of Eden Gardens.
It wasn’t the first time over the course of the tournament that someone stepped up for the men in maroon, with India themselves falling to some incredible hitting from the Caribbean islanders in the semi-final.
The host nation’s Virat Kohli was named player of the tournament, but wasn’t even at the final to collect his gong. Now, Kohli is India’s captain, and he will be desperate to not only make some amends for what happened on the biggest stage last year, but also achieve a clean sweep of series successes.
After 4-0 and 2-1 wins in the tests and one-day internationals respectively, India, not surprisingly, are the favourites to come out on top in the shortest form of the game, with Grosvenor Sport offering 3/5 on a home victory.
England trade at 13/10 and, coming to the end of a long tour, must find some inspiration from somewhere. It could come from Stokes, who faced his demons at Eden Park in the last 50 over clash on Sunday, helping Eoin Morgan’s team to a five-run victory – England’s only win over India of the tour so far – with a 39-ball 57.
Like all three-match series, the first rubber will be crucial.
The opening fixture – a day/night affair – takes place at Green Park, a venue never used previously for a T20 international.
The Kanpur ground has hosted 22 Tests and 14 ODIs in the last 72 years. Of the limited overs games, India have won nine of the 13 that they’ve been involved in, including all three against England. India are 4/6 to win the opener with England 6/5.
There have been two Indian Premier League fixtures held at Green Park, with Gujarat Lions winning both after successfully chasing down scores of 173 and 125. On both occasions, they won the toss and elected to field.
The spin of the coin could be decisive again, as there was a real feeling that batting last was a big advantage – the side fielding second struggled under lights that, according to some observers, have poor ‘lux levels’ (index to measure light intensity).
The toss could be vital.
Both India and England are priced at 10/11 to win the toss.
The other matches are in Nagpur – where India have played two and lost two in T20 internationals, including a 47-run defeat to New Zealand at last year’s World Cup – and Bangalore, where the hosts only just scrambled past Bangladesh by a single run in the same competition, but did beat Pakistan in the only other T20 fixture between nations staged there.
England, in fact, enjoy a winning 2-1 record in India in this form of the game and a 5-3 superior head to head overall against their current opponents, which bodes well for Three Lions backers.
It’s interesting that Kohli has decided to rest the two bowlers who have caused England the most problems on this tour, with Ravi Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin omitted from the T20 squad. The onus, therefore, will be on Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ashish Nehra, who all trade at 7/2 to be top series bowler for India.
Virat Kohli is the top ranked T20 batsman in the world.
He is a 5/2 shot to make the most runs over the three matches and it would be no surprise if he did just that. However, it may pay to have a saver on Suresh Raina, at 6/1. The left-hander returns to the hosts’ squad for the T20 games with a point to prove and can boast runs in the IPL at Green Park.
For England, Alex Hales is a big miss (the Nottinghamshire batsman is out with a fractured hand), but Joe Root, 3/1 to be top batsman, should be fit enough to return after missing the one day win in Kolkata, and his consistency in T20s mark him down as the man to back.
Lastly, Tymal Mills is an intriguing addition to the English attack. Priced at 4/1 to be the top bowler in the series for the tourists, he offers blistering pace and might just make a name for himself against an India side that won’t know too much about him.
The Sussex quick offers some X-Factor for England who are taken to end the tour on a high.