It has been over 16 months since India last lost a T20I series – although their 1-0 defeat in West Indies came in a one-off match. Stretch the yardstick to a series which had more than one completed game, and you would have to go all the way back to October 2015 for India’s last reversal in a bilateral T20I series, a 2-0 beating at home at the hands of South Africa.
They haven’t necessarily played bad cricket in the early running of their eagerly-anticipated tour of Australia, yet they know their run of seven successive series wins in the shortest format is already over; any result other than a win in Sydney on Sunday, 25 November, and the streak will end in an even-more pinching manner.
No Bad Cricket, but No Luck Either
If India are to not get their desired result at the SCG – in particular if it is down to inclement weather – it could provide the rare instance of a team losing a series in any format without having done any real wrong.
A rain-affected game of close margins went Australia’s way to open the series at Brisbane. Then, in Melbourne, a solid bowling effort couldn’t bear its fruit when the heavens opened up at the MCG. Sure, one innings doesn’t decide a contest. But even the most stoic of Aussie supporters would not have fancied their chances too much with a score of 132/7 after 19 overs.
It represented a hastened but effective learning for the Indian bowling unit. Having been guilty of not hitting their strides in the series opener – and unaided by their fielders – all five bowlers available did their job to limit the hosts at the MCG. The fielding, too, returned to usual standards.
The batsmen may not have delivered in a rare failure to chase down a target at the Gabba, but to call a return of 169/7 in 17 overs on the first match of an away tour would be harsh to say the least.
One would have reckoned India will make changes for the second game, but they didn’t. That means expecting a shake-up for the decider is increasingly unlikely.
Golden End to Aussie Year of Gloom
You could associate rain with gloom, but it has taken the unruly weather to lift the gloom in Australian cricket.
No one – Indian or Australian, from Earth or from Mars – gave the home team a real chance at the onset of the three-match series. Yet they now stand with 240 balls of achieving what will be their first series win in any format since Tampergate and all its fallout in March (discounting a one-off T20I win against UAE).
Coach Justin Langer has spoken of his wards having ‘had enough of getting bashed up’, but Aaron Finch and team will be the first to accept they got out of a tight corner at the MCG. The batting, which appeared to have had its sensibilities restored in Brisbane, again showed signs of combustion that have proved so fatal on so many occasions this year.
At least one change seems certain in Sydney – Mitchell Starc is back in the squad, having initially been rested for the T20I leg of the Indian tour. While Nathan Coulter-Nile did replace Billy Stanlake in the XI after his injury in training ahead of the Melbourne T20I, there would be rationale behind calling up the country’s spearhead fast bowler just to keep him on the bench.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Rishabh Pant, Krunal Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Khaleel Ahmed, Washington Sundar.
Australia: Aaron Finch (capt), Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Lynn, Ben McDermott, Glenn Maxwell, D'Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa.
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