Big Picture – Will Bumrah give chances to Jitesh, Shahbaz and Avesh?
India have largely achieved what they wanted from this Ireland series. Jasprit Bumrah and Prasidh Krishna have made excellent returns to form and fitness and have subsequently been drafted into the Asia Cup squad. Ruturaj Gaikwad has returned to the T20I set-up with one unbeaten knock and one quick half-century. Sanju Samson looked fluent during his 40 in the second T20I before Rinku Singh sparkled on what was effectively his debut. Shivam Dube has auditioned as the back-up for Hardik Pandya’s role – although he could do with some more wickets. And Ravi Bishnoi grabbed four wickets in the two games after going wicketless in his only outing in the Caribbean. And, India have the series in the bag.
So now they can turn attentions to the players who’ve been on the bench in Malahide. Jitesh Sharma could be given his India cap and bat in the lower middle order with licence to showcase his hit-from-ball-one skills. Shahbaz Ahmed could also come in – confident after his haul of wickets in the Deodhar Trophy – to give India another all-round option while resting the more-established Washington Sundar. And Avesh Khan, once such a promising force with the white ball, could do with another chance to prove he has ironed out his flaws.
Ireland will have to step up big time with both bat and ball to give India a fight. In the first game, they slumped to 59 for 6 against two bowlers returning from injury, who were not yet at their peak. Opting to bowl in the second match, all India’s batters bar one flourished, Ireland leaked too many in the death overs, and their top four batters – barring Andy Balbirnie – couldn’t find answers to Prasidh’s short balls and Bishnoi’s wrong ‘un.
Even if they leak runs again, which isn’t a crime in T20s, Ireland’s batters will have to shoulder most of the responsibility if they want to register their first win against India after ten unsuccessful attempts.
India WWLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first) Ireland LLLWW
In the spotlight – Shivam Dube and Paul Stirling
Allrounder Shivam Dube had a second coming of sorts in the IPL this year with the bat. He had his most prolific season – 418 runs at a strike rate 158.33, including a whopping 35 sixes (second-most in IPL 2023), while also averaging 38. More than half of those runs and 22 of those 35 sixes came against spin, though, and the conditions in Ireland are as different as they could get from Chennai (his home base at the IPL) – soggy, overcast, and quicker, bouncier, greener tracks. He faced only pace in the second T20I and scored 22 not out off 16 balls. His challenge will be to score more off the short stuff should it come his way, and be a wicket-taking option in the middle overs in conditions that better suit him.
Paul Stirling has been scoring all around the world in the last couple of years – in the Vitality Blast and the Hundred in England, at the Lanka Premier League, the Pakistan Super League, the Caribbean Premier League and the SA20, apart from in international cricket. He
took the added responsibility of the captaincy from Balbirnie in July, but he hasn’t scored much against the No. 1 T20I side in this series. He fell to Bishnoi’s googly in the series opener before being bounced out by Prasidh for a duck and, with Ireland’s batting under pressure, Stirling will be eager to end the series with a significant contribution.
Team news – Will Theo van Woerkom get a debut?
Samson could hand over the wicketkeeper-batter reins to Jitesh, Shahbaz could come in for Washington, and Avesh for Arshdeep Singh, since Bumrah and Prasidh would want more game time before the Asia Cup. The only question would be whether India would want to make as many as three changes.
Ireland have used the same XI in both games and, with nothing more to lose, they could also hand a debut to Christchurch-born left-arm spinner Theo van Woerkom. He was part of New Zealand’s Under-19 World Cup squad in 2012 but has qualified for Ireland, with an Irish background on his mother’s side. He could come in for legspinner Ben White. They could also try out Ross Adair (Mark Adair’s brother) at the top or batting allrounder Gareth Delany in the middle.
Ireland (possible XI): 1 Paul Stirling (capt), 2 Andy Balbirnie, 3 Lorcan Tucker (wk), 4 Harry Tector, 5 Curtis Campher, 6 George Dockrell, 7 Mark Adair, 8 Barry McCarthy, 9 Fionn Hand/Craig Young, 10 Josh Little, 11 Ben White/Theo van Woerkom.
Wednesday is expected to be mildly sunny in patches, with more of cloud cover and windiness and some rain expected. The temperature is expected to settle just under 20 degrees Celsius. There are more chances of rain later in the evening especially so, with a 3pm local time start, we should get a completed game squeezed in, even if it is interrupted.