“We had a discussion about middle overs. The problem is that we are losing wickets back-to-back, and that puts a brake on the run rate." That was India vice-captain Smriti Mandhana's take on losing momentum between the sixth and sixteenth over while batting. And the left-hander isn't far from the truth.
In the first match, India lost Mandhana and Kaur within a span of six balls. Whereas, in the second, Shafali Verma fell three balls after Mandhana's wicket. In both instances, it put significant pressure on the two new batters in the crease to keep the momentum going despite a good start.
Momentum plays an important role in sports, especially in the T20 format, to lift the morale of any team. This is why India would be going into the final T20I against high on confidence to win the match and level the multi-format series 8-8.
India is likely to stick to their strengths, playing four spinners in Deepti Sharma, Sneh Rana, Radha Yadav and Poonam Yadav. Together, they gave away 73 runs in 12 overs, operating close to six runs per over, at Hove. Whether they will be able to replicate a similar performance at Chelmsford is yet to be seen, but the tourists would back them to come good in the series decider.
With the bat, India would be happy about the Verma and Mandhana's performance, and perhaps the biggest relief would be their skipper Kaur getting back amongst runs. However, they might want to rethink their batting order as to who bats between four-six. Sharma struggled throughout the innings to score at run-a-ball in the second T20I.
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With the series on the line, Mandhana felt that one of the top order batters should bat through the innings while others play proactive cricket around them. "The one thing we need to work on as an opening combination is to carry on till at least the 15th or the 16th over. That will be good for our team. We will be working on that," she said.
India's ground fielding has been exceptional throughout the T20I series and they would want to continue the same going into the final match of the tour.
For England, a lot of things went wrong in a short period in the second T20I. Tammy Beaumont, Heather Knight, Sophie Dunkley and Amy Jones got out within a span of 18 deliveries, something that does not happen every day. They would want to start fresh in the third T20I and play their natural aggressive brand of cricket.
“We were cruising when we were playing very simple cricket and then losing (from) 106 for two, and to lose those wickets is very frustrating for us as a team. I think (we) were just not ruthless enough. We should not be losing a game from that position," Knight said after the match.
Danielle Wyatt has got starts, but she has not been able to capitalise so far. Knight would be backing her do well along with the ever-consistent Beaumont, who scored 59 runs from 50 balls.
The challenge for England would be countering the Indian spinners by rotating the strike and keep the innings going. Knight reflected on the same, saying that they should hide their egos a little and work the spinners around with singles and doubles.
On the bowling front, England have a settled bowling unit with multiple options to pick from. Although none of the bowlers has done much wrong to be dropped, it would be interesting to see if Natasha Farrant gets a chance in the final T20I. The left-arm seam bowling is not something the Indian openers are used to, and it could come in handy against someone like Verma early in the innings.
T20I series on 1-1. Multi-format series on 8-6 in favour of England. Both the teams have a lot to play for. India were able to hold their nerve to get across the line in the second T20I.
Will the tourists ride on their momentum and repeat the result, or will England make a statement with a comeback and steal the series?
India: Harmanpreet Kaur (c) Smriti Mandhana (vc), Deepti Sharma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Shafali Verma, Richa Ghosh, Harleen Deol, Sneh Rana, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Indrani Roy (wk), Shikha Pandey, Pooja Vastrakar, Arundhati Reddy, Poonam Yadav, Ekta Bisht, Radha Yadav, Simran Dil Bahadur
England: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Freya Davies, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Natasha Farrant, Sarah Glenn, Amy Jones, Natalie Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Mady Villiers, Fran Wilson, Danielle Wyatt