England and India are back at it on Friday for the Second International T20 of this lengthy tour. India hold a 1-0 series lead as we head to Cardiff, where the atmosphere will be fantastic for a Friday evening match on a belting British summer day.
After a flying start from Jason Roy and Jos Buttler (yep, he did it again), England met a familiar foe in the middle overs at Old Trafford in the form of spin. The smart, deceptive bowling of Kuldeep Yadav ripped the heart out of the England innings. The hosts could only post 159 as a result.
That was below par, and India cruised to it with time to spare, taking a particular liking to Liam Plunkett and Moeen Ali along the way.
Lokesh Rahul notched his second IT20 ton in the first match. He was magnificent, scoring just shy of two runs per ball with 15 boundaries along the way.
Alongside the bigger names of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, Rahul carried his side, allowing the veterans to tick over and feed him the strike.
Despite his efforts in the opener, Rahul is still NOT the favourite to be India’s top batsman. Kohli and Sharma share that honour again, but Rahul has to be a decent bet after that performance.
Picking a top performer from either of these star-studded line-ups is an immense challenge, however. The way India took advantage of Plunkett and Moeen in the middle overs furthers the case for a middle order batsman if England can have control and take wickets with the new ball.
Kuldeep, who bamboozled several England batsmen as he turned it both ways, is a great bet to be the top bowler in the match. England are unlikely to start picking him in the next few days.
If he can keep the same control and mix his deliveries well, the 23-year-old could prove to be the match winner again.
Although he eventually succumbed to the spin, Buttler was England’s star performer. There’s an increasing case to argue that he’s England’s greatest white-ball batsman of all time.
The onslaught Bhuvneshwar Kumar suffered will come again in Cardiff. Buttler is a great price to top score for England, there’s a great chance he makes it five straight white ball half-centuries.
England’s bowling relies heavily on Adil Rashid. The leg spinner showed good control on Tuesday, giving up just three boundaries and 25 runs in his four overs. Sharma fell to Rashid, too, who will be a greater wicket-taking threat if India are under greater pressure to score off him.
That responsibility lies with the other bowlers, England cannot afford the same indifferent spells from Plunkett and Moeen if they are to compete with this India side.
Rashid is the best price in the top bowler market. Chris Jordan could be good value, however, particularly if India have wickets in hand at the death and he can nail his Yorkers.
England’s batting could always fire them to victory, such is the depth and talent. Their struggles against the spin suggest another underwhelming batting display, though, which makes India the favourites.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*