A mere two days after England Bazball’d their way to a target of 378 – their highest successful chase in Test cricket, at a run rate of almost five – they are getting ready to push the boundaries even further, this time in T20I cricket. After Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes ushered in the new era in grand style, it is now the turn of Matthew Mott and Jos Buttler to lay down their own marker.
Mott had already taken charge of the white-ball side for the three-match ODI series in the Netherlands, but this will be Buttler’s first game as full-time captain following Eoin Morgan’s retirement. None of the members who featured in the Edgbaston Test will be in action in the T20I series opener. As much as this white-ball leg is about testing out the young ‘uns, the pre-series focus is on two old boys: 37-year-old Dinesh Karthik and 34-year-old Richard Gleeson.
Last summer, Karthik was in England as a commentator, grabbing attention with his sharp punditry and snazzy shirts. Long before that, he came to the country as a Test opener and back-up white-ball player, but now he is here to establish himself as one of India’s best T20I finishers. Karthik made a right old name for himself in the IPL smashing fast bowling to all parts to the point that teams eventually began matching him up with wristspinners. The move worked and England will have taken note of that, especially Matt Parkinson, who will get the chance, in the absence of Adil Rashid, to show off his wares against some of the best in the business.
While Karthik is in the midst of his zillionth comeback, Gleeson has earned his maiden call-up, three months out from the 2022 T20 World Cup. The right-arm seamer has had dips at the Bangladesh Premier League (Rangpur Riders), the Big Bash League (Melbourne Renegades) and the Abu Dhabi T10 league (Maratha Arabians and Team Abu Dhabi) and his ability to nail yorkers makes him an attractive option to have. Those yorkers were recently on display for Lancashire in the Vitality Blast where he closed out a tie and a one-run win. However, given Gleeson’s history of injuries and the absence of a number of frontline quicks because of injury, England might not rush him into playing three T20Is in four days.
England LWLWL (Last five completed T20Is; most recent first) IndiaWWWWL
A stress fracture of the lower back put Sam Curran out of last year’s T20 World Cup and the Ashes, but the allrounder is rising once again, having proven his form and fitness in the Netherlands ODIs and for Surrey. Curran’s new-ball swing and big-hitting could make things happen for England once again in T20I cricket. The hosts could also play him as a middle-order floater to throw Yuzvendra Chahal off his game.
Like Curran, Suryakumar Yadav is working his way back into international cricket after an injury. With Deepak Hooda firing at the top, Suryakumar only had a peripheral role to play in Ireland. He could potentially slot back at No.3 and play a bigger role against England. Or Hooda could get another go and we’ll get to see how he fares against a more potent attack.
Phil Salt and Harry Brook will tussle for the middle-order slot left vacant by Morgan’s departure. Tymal Mills missed Sussex’s final group stage games with a toe injury but is expected to be fit for this fixture after getting stitches on Wednesday. He could get the nod ahead of David Willey and join a three-man left-arm seam attack. The early signs are that Gleeson will have to wait for his international debut.
England (probable): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jos Buttler (capt & wk), 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Moeen Ali, 5 Liam Livingstone, 6 Harry Brook, 7 Sam Curran, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Tymal Mills, 10 Reece Topley/David Willey, 11 Matt Parkinson
India will welcome back their captain Rohit Sharma after he missed the Edgbaston Test with Covid-19. He has tested negative since and even had a net session in Birmingham. India will have to choose between Umran Malik and Arshdeep Singh, who didn’t get a game in Ireland, on the bowling front. VVS Laxman will helm the side, at least for the series opener, before Rahul Dravid takes over once again.
The Southampton pitch had a light covering of grass on the eve of the game. The Ageas Bowl has some of the longest boundaries in the country and has been the third-lowest-scoring ground in the T20 Blast this season (7.93 runs per over). The average score batting first here in the Blast this year has been 165, and defending teams have won five games out of seven. Weather is expected to be warm and sunny on Thursday.
India’s run rate of 8.61 in the powerplay is the highest among teams who have played at least five or more completed T20Is since November 2021.
“There’s a few more things going on in your head: you’re thinking about a few things and maybe talking to a few more people. It’s really important to take really good care of my own game. I want to try and be a captain who leads from the front so it’s really vital I make sure my own practice and preparation is really good.” Jos Buttler isn’t overly concerned that captaincy will affect his performances.
“It’s always good to be back playing for your country and you don’t want to miss any games for your country, but certain things are not in your control. Now that I’m back, [I’m] excited and looking forward.” Rohit Sharma is eager to return to action after a bout of Covid-19