The stands at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium will be bursting at its seams on Wednesday. With the Twenty20 series between India and England still alive coming into the decider, an absolute cracker is on the cards as the teams face-off for the final time, after five Tests, three one-dayers and two T20 Internationals.
Never mind results in the other formats, there has been little to separate the two sides in the T20 games. England, runners-up in the 2016 World Twenty20, have displayed rare craftiness to keep the Indian team guessing.
However, England would have preferred to play the hosts at any venue other than Bengaluru. They can be braced for an intimidating atmosphere with a jingoistic crowd baying for them.
Virat’s home turf
Virat Kohli is loved in every corner of India, but the craze for him in Bengaluru is to be seen to be believed. There will be a defeaning roar when he walks out to bat. If his exploits for India weren’t enough, last season he hammered 973 runs at an average of 81.08 in 16 matches to power Royal Challengers Bangalore to the Indian Premier League final.
The city has come to be known as the Indian captain’s second home ground, and it’s coach Anil Kumble’s den. The two should know every blade of grass on this surface, and so will Bengaluru boys KL Rahul, star of the second T20 on Sunday, and Manish Pandey. In fact, given his familiarity with the surface, Kohli chose to skip Tuesday’s practice.
After the struggle in Nagpur, the teams can expect a typical T20 wicket. The Chinnaswamy track is known for producing high-scoring matches and this one should be no different.
Curator K Sriram has predicted there won’t be much lateral movement for the pacers; neither will the spinners get a surface where the ball will grip and turn.
It’s the stage for most of the IPL batting records, and that was evident in how the Indian batsmen were having a ball at the nets on the eve of the final tie.
India under pressure
Whether England will be too bothered by the conditions is doubtful. In fact, it is the first time Kohli will be feeling the pressure. A few overs can prove decisive in T20 and his team is not exactly firing on all cylinders. There are chinks in the armour, which England captain Eoin Morgan will look to exploit.
The challenge of playing at this venue is that no total looks daunting enough, and Morgan leads a dynamic batting line-up which is building a reputation as chase masters.
Kohli is yet to lose a home series in any format but with the England bowlers also having a bagful of tricks to stifle the Indian batsmen, Morgan will be fairly confident of upsetting Kohli’s dream run.
Moeen Ali was outstanding in both the games while pacers Chris Jordan, Ben Stokes and Tymal Mills have stifled the batsmen with their change of pace and variation. Even Kohli was outfoxed with a slower one at Nagpur.
Though Jasprit Bumrah and Ashish Nehra ultimately outperformed their counterparts in death bowling, they were lucky too with the umpiring decisions.
Case for Pant
India are unlikely to tinker with a winning combination, but they have good reason to blood young Rishabh Pant. He will be high on confidence after his swashbuckling half-century in the warm-up game for India A against England. He can also add some verve in the fielding, where India have struggled to hide some old legs.