After nearly three months of intense cricket action between India and England, with Virat Kohli and his crew emerging victorious on all occasions save a few, the time has come for the visitors to wrap their tour of India up with one final match — the third Twenty20 International (T20I) in Bengaluru on Wednesday.
What makes this fixture even more special, aside from the fact that Kohli will be playing on his adoptive home ground, is the fact that it is the first time that a series in this tour has come down to a decider. While India romped home 4-0 in the Tests and clinched the three-ODI series by winning the first two games, the visitors breathed life into the tour by winning the first T20I convincingly, before India pulled things back in the next game to draw level.
Given the importance of the clash, as well as the intensity that is expected to be put on display by both sides, one can assume the two think-tanks to not tinker around much with their line-ups, which will come as bad news for some of the reserve players in either squad who have not been tried out as yet.
Captain Kohli will perhaps feel perfectly at home at Bengaluru's M Chinnaswamy Stadium, and can expect the loudest cheer from the crowd when he walks out to the ground, having led the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) to the final of last year's edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), apart from being one of the most feared batsmen across formats in the world at the moment.
After topping the run charts in the Test series, and scoring a century and a fifty in the one-dayers, Kohli has not struck gold with the bat in the two T20Is played so far, a phenomenon so rare that it can be treated as a failure on his part, given the dizzying heights that he has scaled in the past year.
While the return to form bodes well for another local boy KL Rahul, who struck an entertaining 47-ball 71 in the second T20I to anchor India's innings, the knock perhaps shut the doors on young wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant, at least as far as this series is concerned. However, Rahul getting back among runs should assure Kohli, as far as scoring the bulk of quick runs at the start of the innings is concerned, because it should help the skipper play more freely in the game on Wednesday.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni has had contrasting knocks in the two T20Is so far — hammering an unbeaten, quickfire 36 in the first, while struggling his way to a meagre five in the second, and will look to regain his old touch as a finisher in order to boost the confidence of the selectors as well as that of the fans keeping the upcoming Champions Trophy in mind. The other veteran looking forward to scripting a big innings is Yuvraj Singh, who has recorded bit of a slump after hitting an emphatic 150 in the second ODI of the series in Cuttack.
While the Indian pace department flourished in the second T20I, with Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah doing a terrific job to defend a lowly 144, the overall bowling combination is one that the Indians will have to ponder over. Kohli gave preference to his spinners over medium pacers in the second T20I, with veteran leg-spinner Amit Mishra getting some returns in the form of an economical spell and the crucial wicket of England skipper Eoin Morgan. Mishra thus is likely to get the call-up in Bengaluru as well, as will Yuzvendra Chahal, another one of the RCB personnel in the Indian T20 side, whose knowledge of the conditions will come in handy for the team.
For England, who were left seething with anger at the end of the second T20I after a couple of umpiring howlers, the final T20I presents itself as an opportunity to win at least one trophy in what has been an outright disappointing tour for them so far, with their performances getting better in the limited-overs legs of the tour.
The best performing units in the side so far in the T20I series have been Joe Root and Chris Jordan, both being the unlucky players to have suffered umpiring errors in the last outing. Root had a fifty-plus score in each match that he played in the Test and one-day series, and the second T20I happened to be the first time that he was dismissed under that milestone in this tour. Going out with a bang in the final match will be a fine way of signing out.
Jordan, on the other hand, is among those who know the batting paradise that is Chinnaswamy quite well, having been brought in as a replacement for the injured Mitchell Starc in the IPL last year, and going on to collect 11 wickets for RCB from nine games, at a decent strike rate of 15. His experience in these conditions will be invaluable for fellow bowlers, including young Tymal Mills, whose confidence took a bit of a beating in the second T20I after getting hit all over the park by the likes of Rahul.
The one change that the visitors might make in the upcoming game would be replacing Liam Dawson with Liam Plunkett, with the former hardly making much of the opportunity that was handed to him in the second game. Plunkett's hard-hitting abilities could prove useful, and be crucial for the hosts on the Bengaluru surface.
This will be the first game at the Chinnaswamy since the IPL 2016 final, with the ground getting an extensive makeover, including getting a new subsurface aeration system developed by American company SubAir, which in turn translates to minimised delays following prolonged spells of rain. While there are no such forecasts for the upcoming match, the fact that the aeration system could help reduce the dew factor is something that will play on the minds of both captains at the toss.
All said and done, we have a high-scoring thriller likely in store for us on Wednesday, and whichever team is able to hold its nerves better in the business end of the match will be the one to lift the trophy in the end.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chalal, MS Dhoni (wk), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mandeep Singh, Amit Mishra, Ashish Nehra, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant, Pervez Rasool, KL Rahul, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh.
England: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler (wk), Liam Dawson, Chris Jordan, Tymal Mills, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey.
Time: 19:00 IST | 13:30 GMT