Brett’s watch list: Man of the Match contenders for 5th India-England T20I
The Indian cricket team managed to make a comeback in the five-match T20I series for the second time on Thursday when some quality bowling in the death overs by the hosts snatched a series win from under England’s nose. In the end, the hosts won by 8 runs to keep the series alive and it’s all to play for in the fifth and final T20I on Saturday, March 20.
The series-deciding T20I could see some unique personalities rise to the occasion in order to get the job done for their respective teams, and here are the four players that I think could deliver a Man of the Match performance in the final match of the series.
What a fantastic beginning it was for Suryakumar Yadav in his international career. Starting off with a six, the Mumbai batsman had answers to everything that the England bowlers threw at him. Be it Adil Rashid’s googly or Mark Wood’s screamer, Surya was a sheer delight to watch. The 30-year-old showed no signs of nervousness whatsoever. On the contrary, he was such an elegant figure in the middle that one could have mistaken him with an experienced campaigner on the international stage. There’s absolutely no way India are going to drop him in the next game. I’m eagerly waiting to see him again on the field in the series decider.
Shardul Thakur made some important contributions with the bat when India needed the most in the fourth T20I, scoring 10 runs off just four balls. The 29-year-old right-arm pacer had conceded 21 runs in his opening two overs, but he managed to change the entire complexion of the encounter within two deliveries of his third over, scalping important wickets of Ben Stokes and England captain Eoin Morgan while giving away just seven runs. It was good to see how Shardul was experimenting with the variations in such a critical situation. In the end, it was commendable how the Mumbai cricketer held his nerves as his knuckleballs did the trick while defending 23 runs in the final over.
England’s swashbuckling batter Jonny Bairstow looked in good touch in the fourth T20I before he gave his wicket away to India leg-spinner Rahul Chahar. Bairstow has been vicious at times in the series and that partnership with Ben Stokes in the recently concluded T20I was just another testament to his usual brilliance. It’s easy to criticise a player on an off day, but one certainly needs to appreciate Bairstow for his sheer versatility. Over the years, the 31-year-old has been used at several different positions, but he has managed to put runs on the board regardless. I’m rightfully expecting a scintillating performance from Bairstow in the final encounter.
England pacer Mark Wood was once again very impressive in the fourth T20I as troubled the famed Indian batting line-up on Thursday. However, Wood would be left disappointed with the fact that he didn’t pick any wickets of India’s top-order batsmen in the first six overs. The 31-year fast bowler conceded just six runs in his first two overs including a maiden over. While the Indian batsmen were smashing the England bowlers left, right and centre, Mark Wood picked a wicket and kept his economy under seven. It goes without saying that Wood has been England’s standout bowler in the series along with Jofra Archer, and I expect him to play an important role in the fifth and final T20I as well.