Following a domestic summer in which the Twenty20 format truly captivated the nation, the time has come for cricket’s youngest format to be showcased on the international stage. Australia, ranked 2nd in the world, will look to continue their strong form at home, whilst India, ranked 8th, will seek to build on their thrilling ODI victory in Sydney. Australia Day celebrations will heighten the attention on this clash, making Tuesday’s 1st T20 international all the more significant.
Twenty20 International: Australia v India – Adelaide Oval (Adelaide)
The Adelaide Oval and Pitch Analysis
Australia’s poor history in the T20 format makes for interesting reading, however of note is the fact that they are yet to win a Twenty20 international at Adelaide Oval (2 losses). In the ODI format, they’ve won just 3 of their past 7, and lost their most recent match against India by 4 wickets, back in 2012.
Having recently conducted an assessment of the Adelaide Oval deck for our Big Bash semi-final preview, we can safely say that it is, if not the best, then definitely one of the best short-form pitches in Australia. Rarely is something on offer for bowlers in the modern game, however Thursday’s semi-final lends credence to the argument that the Adelaide Oval is an exception. Almost every batsman struggled in the Strikers v Thunder clash, with only Usman Khawaja (and to a lesser extent Alex Ross) able to negate the swing, seam and spin that was on offer. The past two first innings totals at the ground have failed to reach 160, a notable decrease on what was on show at the beginning of the BBL tournament. The previous T20 internationals at this ground have seen Australia bat first and average 150.50, before the chasing side has won with some difficulty.
There is a passable but underwhelming argument for chasing in Adelaide, with 3 of the 5 BBL fixtures won by the team batting second. Add to that the fact that 4 of the 5 ODIs between Australia and India were won by the chasing side and a clear trend is emerging – both teams are comfortable chasing whatever total is presented to them, especially considering how undermanned their bowling attacks are. A low-scoring match would be in order, however with both attacks undermanned and both batting orders in form, a par total of 165 seems more appropriate in the circumstances.
As the host nation, Australia’s squad represents more a list of players capable of earning a World Cup berth than it does a list of the best the country has to offer. Chris Lynn and Travis Head had incredible Big Bash tournaments with the bat, however both are likely behind the omitted Usman Khawaja and George Bailey in the selectors’ pecking order. With the ball, Andrew Tye, Shaun Tait and Cameron Boyce have much to prove, with Tye and Boyce the two who will be watched with most intrigue. Cameron Boyce or Nathan Lyon will likely be utilised, with our money on Boyce given the success of Adil Rashid at the ground this summer in Adelaide. It would be a surprise to see both of Lynn and Head omitted, however the depth of the squad offers selectors the option to either blood inexperience or field a full-strength squad.
Australian Squad: Aaron Finch (C), Scott Boland, Cameron Boyce, James Faulkner, John Hastings, Travis Head, Nathan Lyon, Chris Lynn, Shaun Marsh, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Shaun Tait, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade (WK), David Warner, Shane Watson.
It is unlikely to see India stray from many of the players who starred for them in an undeserved 4-1 ODI series loss. Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli should lead the order, whilst Ravichandran Ashwin has starred in the format in recent times. Dhoni will lead the team, despite his underwhelming form with the bat and often flawed captaincy. That leaves six places to be decided by the remainder of the squad, with Jadeja, Raina, Bumrah and Nehra our favourites to make the final cut. This squad boast a lot of diversity and inexperience, and whilst exciting, there is an inherent risk to playing the number of all-rounders this squad is capable of producing.
Indian Squad: MS Dhoni (C)(WK), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Harbhajan Singh, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Rishi Dhawan, Ashish Nehra.
Aaron Finch v MS Dhoni
Two captains with questions looming over their form and tactical competence, Finch and Dhoni have more pressure on them heading into this Australia Day clash than any other players on the field. Finch’s position in the ODI side, and even the T20 team has come under scrutiny given the form of Shaun Marsh, Usman Khawaja and Joe Burns, even though his recent series average of 42.60 is hardly underwhelming. Strong Big Bash showings prior to his national call-up bode well for this clash, however should there by any movement through the air or off the deck, look for India to bowl short of a length, set a straight field and wait for the inevitable chip to mid-off.
Concerns over Dhoni’s form are far more warranted, with the Indian captain not having scored more than 35 on this tour of Australia. Despite favourable batting conditions, Dhoni has struggled, meaning his captaincy and bowling changes will need to be more aggressive and inspiring than they were in the ODIs.
Virat Kohli v David Warner
Virat Kohli comes off what will be, statistically speaking, one of the best ODI series’ of his career (381 runs at 76.20). Add to his current form the fact that he scored a century at the Adelaide Oval against Pakistan at last year’s World Cup, and that he averages 98.50 at the venue in Tests, and you have a compelling argument for him being a significant figure. Warner’s form line with the bat is similar, whilst the aggression and fielding prowess provided by both inevitably create a high-stakes environment. It is rare Warner isn’t the most dangerous batsman in a match, however Kohli has a strong claim to that title in this tilt.
Ravi Ashwin and Jasprit Bumrah v John Hastings and Cameron Boyce
They’re not huge names (with the exception of Ashwin), however these battles loom as arguably the most exciting of the night. This tour, and arguably this summer, has been geared against the bowlers, with flat pitches decimating averages and economy rates. India will respond to this by allowing Ashwin and his impressive T20I economy rate of 7.24 to build pressure, and encouraging the promising Bumrah to take wickets. This one-two punch has the potential to go wrong, inexperienced as the paceman is, however it is also the foundation on which the McGrath/Warner partnership of old was formed – on player creates pressure, the other exploits it.
Hastings and Boyce will perform a similar function for Australia, which is why Boyce looms as a more favourable option to Nathan Lyon. Laughlin and Rashid exploited the economical bowler/aggressive spinner partnership well in the Big Bash, particularly at the Adelaide Oval, and we expect this pair to do the same. Hastings to be the pick of the Australian attack following his strong BBL and ODI showings this summer.
Neither of these sides play much Twenty20 cricket. Combined, they have just 31 games which contribute to the ICC’s T20I ranking system.
- By comparison, Pakistan has 30 games which are incorporated into the rankings.
The most recent ODI series between these two saw 3159 scored, the most ever in a 5-match ODI series.
- This comes as a result of three things: Two very good batting sides, depleted bowling attacks, and flat pitches. Adelaide Oval should see the first two once more, however should provide as much assistance for the bowlers as we’ve seen during India’s tour.
Twenty20 International: Australia v India Preview and Final Prediction
This looms as a lower scoring event than the recent ODI series, however that doesn’t mean it promises to be less entertaining. This tour is crying out for a tense, low-scoring affair in which bowlers have an influence, and whilst the undermanned attacks are unlikely to see that fulfilled in its purist sense, expect a bit more of a contest between bat and ball here. Virat Kohli looms as the danger man for the visitors, with his Adelaide Oval record impeccable, whilst Australia’s strength will be in batting depth and the willingness of so many players to prove their worth ahead of the World Cup. The Big Bash provides Australia with a significant advantage in terms of recent experience, and that should be telling in what could be a relatively one-sided contest should India’s top three not perform.
Match Prediction: Australia by 25 runs/5 wickets.