Cricket

India vs England: Virat Kohli vs Ben Stokes and other key player battles that could define T20I series

  • FirstCricket Staff
  • March 11th, 2021
  • 18:57:43 IST

After a successful Test series where India prevailed over England 3-1 in some dramatic fashion in the Test series, focus now shifts towards the shortest format as both teams' preparations for the ICC T20 World Cup in India later this year intensifies.

This will be a five-match series, and all matches will take place at Ahmedabad's Narendra Modi Stadium, with the first match on Friday.

There will be a few faces in the England camp who have never faced India in T20Is with the likes of Sam Curran and Dawid Malan.

Meanwhile, Bhuvneshwar Kumar returns to lead the Indian bowling line-up after a prolonged injury hiatus, while Jasprit Bumrah and the injured Mohammed Shami are rested.

Ahead of the series opener, we take a look at player battles to watch out for:

Virat Kohli vs Ben Stokes

Unarguably the most-anticipated match-up ahead of the limited-overs series will be the Virat Kohli-Ben Stokes duel.

Virat Kohli-Ben Stokes duel could produce some series-defining moments. AFP

Virat Kohli-Ben Stokes duel could produce some series-defining moments. AFP

After an edition of the Kohli-Stokes rivalry in the Test series, this spicy match-up shifts to the shortest format, where it could provide some game-changing or even series-defining moments.

Kohli did not have the best of Test series against England, scoring just 172 runs from four matches (six innings) and Stokes got the better of him twice in the recently-concluded series, which India eventually went onto win 3-1.

However, it is in times when Kohli has a bad series, he is just bound to bounce back in style.

While it will be interesting to see Kohli potentially return to his aggressive approach like he always has after a below-par outing, Stokes has the ability to pile-up pressure on the Indians not just picking up wickets at crucial junctures but also will have a crucial role later in England’s batting order in potentially finishing the games with quick runs.

And once Ben Stokes the batter starts firing runs, Kohli will need to come up with the best tactical approach against England’s top all-rounder, who will remain a threat to India throughout the series.

Rishabh Pant vs England pacers

The 23-year-old Rishabh Pant has had a meteoric rise in international cricket, and it will be hard for the team management to look beyond him in the forthcoming T20I series.

In February, Pant, who did not feature in the Australia T20Is last year, was recalled to the hosts’ squad for the England T20Is, thanks to his inspired batting displays in Australia and England during the Test series.

He may have scored just 410 runs from 28 T20Is throughout his career, but the numbers don’t do justice to Pant’s performance in the shortest format for India.

What makes him an interesting match-up against England is his fearless, never-say-die attitude, something which was prevalent in his knock of 101 in the fourth Test which India eventually won.

He showcased calmness and composure, outplaying the England bowlers to give their worst nightmare, almost throughout the series.

Much like Stokes in the English camp, Pant has the tendency to finish games for India, or at least, set a platform in the middle-order line-up for a big score.

And with the T20 World Cup fast-approaching, this will be the perfect chance for Pant to once again prove his mettle and seal that spot in the playing XI.

Dawid Malan vs Axar Patel

India may be one of the teams Dawid Malan has not faced, but his recent form in the shortest format speaks for itself.

Malan averages 53 in T20Is, which is even more than Kohli (50), and he has been an ever-dependable force for England in the shortest format.

Notably, in the last two T20Is against South Africa last year, he was almost unstoppable, and the Proteas found it hard to get an answer to dismiss the flamboyant batsman.

He scored 55 and 99* in those two matches, both of which went in England’s favour.

The surfaces will be much slower than what Malan is used to batting on usually, and he may come up against left-arm orthodox bowler Axar Patel.

Malan has been dismissed five times by left-arm orthodox bowlers, and has only a strike rate of 129. Overall, in T20Is, Malan has a strike rate of 149.

Axar Patel, meanwhile, is in red hot form, having recently scalped 27 wickets in the Test series, so this battle of two in-form cricketers could be worth a watch.

Jos Buttler vs Bhuvneshwar Kumar

England’s Jos Buttler is returning to the national set-up for the first time since the end of the first Test in early February.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar will gear up for his first international appearance for India in almost two years. AFP

Bhuvneshwar Kumar will gear up for his first international appearance for India in almost two years. AFP

As part of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) rotation policy, Buttler was sent back home after England’s thumping 227-run win over India in Chennai in the first Test.

And now, he is back and refreshed, this time for the shortest format.

He will pose a challenge for right-arm medium pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who returns to the national side after a prolonged period due to injury-related issues.

In fact, Bhuvneshwar’s task will be cut out when he leads a bowling attack that does not comprise of the absent Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami. Instead, with him in the squad are fellow pacers Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini, so that makes him the most-experienced pacer in the hosts’ team.

Buttler will pose a threat while opening as seen before in T20Is and he is someone who knows the Indian conditions well thanks to his stint with Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, and he will be looking to attack from the word go, and take advantage over the hosts.

Sam Curran vs Yuzvendra Chahal

India are often known to produce spin-friendly pitches, and that is exactly where their main man Yuzvendra Chahal could come into play.

Whenever Chahal comes into the picture, England cricketers might often have memories of a time they would prefer to rather forget – his figures of 6/25 that wreaked havoc in 2016-17.

That was his most notable contribution against England in six T20Is, and this time he could come up face-to-face against Sam Curran at some stage in the five-match series.

Curran, who usually bats in the middle-order while bowling left-arm medium-fast, can also be made as a pinch-hitter often, as was the case on occasions in the IPL with Chennai Super Kings (CSK) last year. If that happens, he would face the likes of spinners in the form of Chahal straightaway in the slog overs.

Updated Date: March 11, 2021 18:57:43 IST

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