All eyes on Raina, Nehra in first T20I vs England
Kanpur: As India switch gears to the shortest format, all eyes will be on the likes of seasoned campaigners Suresh Raina and Ashish Nehra — making a comeback after almost a year’s lay-off — when the Men-in-Blue take on England in the three-match Twenty20 International (T20I) cricket series, starting with the first game at the Green Park Stadium here on Thursday.
Having pocketed the One-Day International (ODI) series 2-1, the Virat Kohli-led hosts will be aiming to make the most of their limited overs experience, as the T20I rubber is the last before the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy from June 1.
In between, India will be playing a one-off Test against Bangladesh before the four-match gruelling Test series against the visiting Australians next month. Following that, will be the Indian Premier League (IPL) from April 3 to May 26, which will leave the national team very little time to regroup for the Champions Trophy in England.
The T20I series will also provide players, including the 30-year-old Raina and 37-year-old Nehra, a great opportunity to stake their claim for a berth in the 50-over side.
Both Nehra and Raina have been out of the national side since the ICC World T20 in March last year and will be eying the upcoming T20Is against England to stage a comeback.
Besides the duo, the series will also be a test for the likes of promising batsmen Rishabh Pant, Mandeep Singh and Manish Pandey and the spin duo of Parvez Rasool and Yuzvendra Chahal.
Going into Thursday’s match, which will begin at 4.30 p.m. instead of the regular 7.30 p.m. start due to the prevailing dew and foggy conditions, the importance of the toss will be negated.
India will hope to end their opening woes and try a new combination with Lokesh Rahul and Pant at the top followed by the settled middle order comprising Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, wicketkeeper-batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Raina.
If Kohli opts for a seventh batsman, it will be a toss up between Manish and Mandeep in the middle order with all-rounder Hardik Pandya adding spice lower down the order.
The bowling department will have the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Pandya apart from Nehra while Bhuvneshwar Kumar may get a look-in depending on the conditions.
Leg-spinner Amit Mishra is most certainly to get a look-in ahead of Chahal with Jammu and Kashmir off-spinner Rasool.
On the other hand, England, after pipping India by five runs in the third ODI and avoiding a whitewash, will be aiming to finish their dismal tour on a winning note. The visitors had earlier lost the five-match Test rubber 0-4.
The visitors have added more firepower in their bowling with the addition of right-armer Chris Jordan and left-arm quick Tymal Mills.
The English side will once again bank on their top order, comprising the likes of Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan and Moeen Ali to post a competitive total on the board.
All-rounder Ben Stokes has been a revelation with both the bat and the ball in the ODIs and England will hope he repeats his feats in the shortest version.
In the bowling department, leg spinner Adil Rashid and Ali will be Morgan’s go-to bowlers in the middle overs while Liam Plunkett, Jake Ball will be the first choice pacers apart from Jordan and Mills.
India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Yuvraj Singh, Lokesh Rahul, Suresh Raina, Mandeep Singh, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant, Parvez Rasool, Yuzvendra Chahal, Amit Mishra, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra
England: Eoin Morgan (Captain), Moeen Ali, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler (wk), Liam Dawson, Liam Plunkett, Joe Root, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Tymal Mills, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey.