As we referenced in our preview for the opening fixture of this series, neither side plays much Twenty20 cricket. For Australia, that inexperience showed on Tuesday night, whilst for India, their top-order showed the poise and purpose required to post a winning total. The series now heads to Melbourne, where a bumper crowd (including a very strong Indian contingent) will expect a tighter contest. Will the hosts deliver? Or can Virat Kohli inspire his side to an unassailable 2-0 series lead?
Second Twenty20 International: Australia v India – MCG (Melbourne)
The Melbourne Cricket Ground and Pitch Analysis
The MCG produced fairly erratic totals in the recent Big Bash League, however it is notable that if you exclude Hobart’s capitulation at the ground, and the semi-final, the average first innings score was 175. Expect another high-scoring encounter here, with both bowling attacks undermanned, both batting orders in form, and the vast expanses of the ground conducive to turning singles into twos.
India have performed admirably at the MCG in recent times, winning two of their four ODI clashes at the venue since the start of 2015. Their two losses both came against the hosts, however that those defeats came by four and three wickets respectively hints at the close nature of the contests. India have also drawn their most recent Test match at the ground (2014) and won their most recent T20 against Australia at the venue (2012).
In the six Twenty20 international played at the MCG since 2009, the highest first innings total has been 161. The average score meanwhile has been a lowly 32.83. Teams have successfully chased int he past two matches at the venue, however no long-term trend supports the ground being more conducive to batting second.
The MCG pitch is unlikely to provide additional assistance to the bowlers, however strong captaincy and good bowling could easily be the undoing of batsmen looking to clear the ropes on the nation’s biggest ground. Set batsmen are the key, as was shown in the BBL final, with Pietersen and Khawaja’s scores of 70 the only individual scores of above 28. In what can only be called a ‘feast or famine’ ground in T20 scenarios, this is likely to be a game decided by how frequently a team loses wickets.
When South Africa played at the MCG last summer, JP Duminy’s 49 wasn’t supported by an individual score in excess of 18. When England played the summer previous, 11 wickets fell, yet only two players scored in excess of 22 (Finch 58* and Bailey 60*). Meanwhile, Shaun Marsh and George Bailey were the only two Australians to score in excess of 8 in 2012/2013.
Most of the Australian side underperformed on Australia Day, leaving selectors with relatively few options with regard to changes. Shaun Tait would be the primary figure in the firing line, however the ‘bigger picture’ which includes the upcoming World Cup may see the veteran granted another opportunity. Aaron Finch has publicly backed the speedster, however his combined figured of 3/164 over his past four T20 matches make for poor reading. Chris Lynn and Travis Head will likely heep their places, meaning Shaun Marsh will find it hard to earn a call-up. Nathan Lyon, Andrew Tye and John Hastings loom as the most likely inclusions, but given Cameron Boyce’s limited chance, a minor change to the fast-bowling attack looms as the only potential alteration to the side which lost comprehensively in Adelaide.
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 would be difficult to see any alterations being made to the Indian side which won in Adelaide. Only Dhawan failed with the bat, whilst only the institution of a ‘resting’ policy – something which is unlikely given the upcoming World Cup – would see Sharma, Raina or Kohli omitted from the final eleven. The bowling attack was somewhat of a worry in Adelaide, and could probably consider itself fortunate to have emerged relatively unscathed. Hardik Pandya has a below-average IPL, domestic and now international Twenty20 record, with the nerves of his debut clearly getting the better of him in Adelaide. Two fortunate wickets may earn him another match, however Dhoni would likely be wise to err on the side of experience. In all, an unchanged side for the visitors.
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.
Kane Richardson v Jasprit Bumrah
There is an off chance that Richardson doesn’t play in Melbourne, particularly given his fielding effort in Adelaide, however in that case his replacement will have a tough time matching up against the impressive Bumrah. A debutant this tour, Bumrah has the aggression, pace and ability to move the ball that has been so glaringly absent from an Indian pace attack for years. Sharma threatened to have it, as did Shami, however Bumrah very much looks the goods. He inspired India to their post-powerplay comeback on Tuesday and will need to double the dose against an Australian order looking for revenge. Richardson meanwhile was no worse than any other Australian full-time quick, however he wasn’t any better either. Watson’s experience was telling in how he bowled in Adelaide, so expect a more intelligent showing by Australia’s pace attack in Melbourne. Should India get him (or Hastings) away, another big total is on the cards.
Steven Smith v Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli has shown fire throughout India’s short tour of the country, however his send-off directed at Steve Smith lit a fuse under a Twenty20 series – a format which often lacks seriousness in the eyes of the public. His impeccable record in Adelaide was discussed in our previous preview, and our prediction for him to top score for the visitors turned out to be an astute call.
Kohli averages 58.50 at the MCG in Tests, 41.20 in ODIs, and scored 31 in his lone T20 match at the ground. Whilst impressive numbers, they’re arguably unexceptional for a player of his class. His recent form-line is far more notable and relevant – Kohli has averaged 94.40 with the bat since in his 6 innings since the start of the ODI series, and scored 117 at the MCG under a fortnight ago. The 2014 Boxing Day Test also saw a notable performance from Kohli, whose innings’ of 169 and 54 secured a draw for India.
Meanwhile, the significance of Smith’s wicket was on full show on Tuesday night. After he fell, Australia collapsed. The inexperience of the middle-order was exploited and Shane Watson didn’t boast the class, aura (or form) needed to resurrect a floundering innings. The sheer arrogance shown by Smith through Channel 9’s coverage was unnecessary, inappropriate and disrespectful, and whilst the coverage itself is rightly under scrutiny for its role in his dismissal, the ICC Player of the Year needs to and will take responsibility for his wicket. Expect a big bounce-back showing from a player who scored 192 in the same Test Kohli posted his 169, and averages 143 in Tests and 63.25 in ODIs at the MCG following his 2013 recall to the national set-up.
Shane Watson v Ravi Ashwin
The significance of bowling in partnerships and building pressure was explored in our Game One preview, and whilst Ashwin largely succeeded in his role, it was Shane Watson who assumed the mantle we expected John Hastings would take. Watson’s stump-to-stump line, intelligent length and experience was the only thing which stopped India from scoring 220 or more. He was targeted on occasion throughout the Big Bash, however has taken a combined 6/69 over his past three T20 outings. Expect four overs from the all-rounder and for them to go for fewer around 30. Ashwin’s overs were largely bowled through the mid-part of Australia’s innings, where the loss of wickets prevented him being attacked. If wickets don’t fall early and often, India’s flawed policy of selecting two specialist and one part-time spinner could backfire horribly.
India have performed admirably at the MCG in recent times, winning two of their four ODI clashes at the venue since the start of 2015.
- Two losses (by 4 and 3 wickets respectively) against Australia constitute their lone defeats and signal how competitive they’ve been, especially considering Australia’s dominance in the ODI format.
Australia have won 6 of their 8 T20 Internationals at the MCG, however have lost 2 of their past 4 at the venue.
- India were one of the two sides to have beaten Australia at the ground (2012), giving them a 1 win, 1 loss record against Australia in T20s at the venue.
Steve Smith and Virat Kohli will continue to face off their battle at first-drop.
- Kohli has averaged 94.40 with the bat since in his 6 innings since the start of the ODI series
- Smith has averaged 143 in Tests and 63.25 in ODIs at the MCG following his 2013 recall to the national set-up.
The MCG has been a ‘feast or famine’ ground for batsmen in Twenty20s.
- BBL05 Final: Pietersen and Khawaja’s scores of 70 were the only individual scores of above 28
- South Africa Tour 2014/2015: JP Duminy’s 49 wasn’t supported by an individual score in excess of 18.
- England Tour 2013/2014: Eleven wickets fell in the match, yet only two players scored in excess of 22 (Finch 58* and Bailey 60*)
- Sri Lanka Tour 2012/2013: Shaun Marsh (47*) and George Bailey (45) were the only two Australians to score in excess of 8.
Twenty20 International: Australia v India Preview and Final Prediction
India’s top order remains the key, with their experience heavily loaded towards the top of the innings. Kohli, Sharma and to a lesser extent Raina and Dhoni hold the key. For Australia, their sub-par bowling attack will be taken for runs, and holding the Indians to a below-par total should be considered an unexpected bonus rather than a realistic goal. With bat in hand, we expect greater application. Smith’s nonchalance at the crease is generally conveyed in a loose technique, not the unfocussed mind we saw on Tuesday. He and Warner won’t both fail again, whilst Head and Lynn have their debuts out of the way and are in a rare run of form. Expect the team winning the toss to chase again, but for the contest to be a little closer this time around. The result is almost entirely contingent on India’s top order, and with them in good form, it is difficult to look past them. However India’s attack has little room for improvement, whilst Australia’s batting order could scarcely get worse. A 37-run win in Adelaide, incredibly, isn’t big enough to account for the potential swing in fortunes here. The frequency with which a team loses wickets will decide this one.
Match Prediction: Australia by 5-10 runs/4 wickets.