India’s batting, England’s bowling, smoky weather in focus ahead of the T20I tri-series opener

All eyes will be on Shikha Pandey (R) as she is the only frontline seamer in the Indian side. © Getty Images

Bowling was the key word when India left home for Australia. However, after the warm-up clash, batting will be the focal point as they take the field at the Manuka Oval in Canberra on Friday (January 31) in the T20I tri-series opener against England.

The clash against Governer General’s XI showed that the Indian openers found the going tough against the pace of Belinda Vakarewa as well as the spin of Molly Strano. Only Jemimah Rodrigues could get to a score of substance, but even she struggled to find her timing on a slowish track.

While the lack of seam bowling options was discussed when they announced the squad, India used as many as three seamers in their warm up clash. All of Shikha Pandey, Pooja Vastrakar – who bowled four overs – and Richa Ghosh rolled their arm over to conjure up eight overs of seam through the game.

Most of the Indian players haven’t played in Australia and this series would act as preparation ahead of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 next month. The likes of Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Veda Krishnamurthy have featured in the Women’s Big Bash League and the others might just do well to pick their brains about what to expect, outside of what they could gather during practice. Moreover, as the only frontline seamer, all eyes will be on how Pandey performs in the tri-series.

England, on the other hand, look a well-oiled unit. They looked at the options available in the series against Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur, before finalizing their squad for the tri-series as well as the T20 World Cup next month. They have a plethora of players who can contribute with both bat and ball – the likes of Natalie Sciver, Heather Knight, Danielle Wyatt and Georgia Elwiss, who pipped Kirstie Gordon for a spot in the squad – and that could just provide England with a cushion in the middle.

When both these sides met the last time in March 2019, England whitewashed India in the three-T20I series in Guwahati, though the hosts just lost the last T20I by a run. Since then, England have had an Ashes loss to contend with before coming back to winning ways against Pakistan, while the Indian side has been on the ascendancy with wins over South Africa at home and West Indies away.

The Manuka Oval in Canberra plays host to the first leg of the tri-series, before the teams move to Melbourne next week. It has hosted just one T20I – the men’s clash between Australia and Pakistan in which the hosts easily hunted down the 151-run target.

The bushfires have had their effect in Canberra as well, with the teams scheduling and rescheduling their practice sessions based on the air quality. Will the weather, as a result, have a major say in the series opener or will the action on the field on Friday (January 31) have an enthralling effect?

Squads

India: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Jemimah Rodriguez, Harleen Deol, Deepti Sharma, Veda Krishnamurthy, Richa Ghosh, Tania Bhatia, Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Shikha Pandey, Pooja Vastrakar, Arundhati Reddy, Nuzhat Parween.

England: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Amy Jones, Danielle Wyatt, Natalie Sciver, Katherine Brunt, Georgia Elwiss, Sophie Ecclestone, Freya Davies, Anya Shrubsole, Lauren Winfield, Sarah Glenn, Kate Cross, Mady Villiers, Fran Wilson.