Australia are truly experimenting on this tour with so many of their first-choice players missing. They went even further than usual in Nagpur, opting for an extra bowler for the first time since 2021, just to trial something in case the pitch played differently than expected. It did leave them a touch light on batting, though, when Axar ripped through Glenn Maxwell and Tim David.
However, like India, Australia have a death-overs problem. Nathan Ellis was injured and missed last night’s game, while Kane Richardson has a minor side niggle and won’t play in the final T20I in Hyderabad. In the absence of Mitchell Starc, Australia haven’t been able to trust their big guns in Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins at the death as often as they would like. They would like to find a solution to that issue ahead of the World Cup.
India WLWLL (last five completed T20Is, most recent first)
In the spotlight
The teams should revert to a more normal setup in Hyderabad. Pant will likely make way given he wasn’t required with the bat, and India will need an extra bowler for a full game. Bhuvneshwar Kumar seems the logical choice to return. India could also consider bringing in R Ashwin for Yuzvendra Chahal.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Axar Patel, 8 Harshal Patel, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal/R Ashwin
Australia will go back to a seven-batter strategy with Josh Inglis slotting straight back into the middle order. One of Sean Abbott and Daniel Sams will make way. If Ellis is fit, he will come straight back in for the other. Australia may also be very cautious with Cummins and Hazlewood. Three games in six days, albeit one shortened by rain, and several long-haul flights is a recipe for injury. Any hint of soreness in their thoroughbreds and they will be rested. But with Richardson unavailable, they can’t rest both.
Australia (probable): 1 Aaron Finch (capt), 2 Cameron Green, 3 Steven Smith, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Josh Inglis, 6 Tim David, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Nathan Ellis/Daniel Sams/Sean Abbott, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood
Pitch and conditions
The weather, warm and dry in the build-up to the weekend, has changed a bit, with dark clouds hovering on the eve of the match.
Stats and trivia
“He can bowl in any phase of the game. That gives me an advantage to use him, especially if I have four overs of his, to use him in the powerplay. That frees up some of our fast bowlers in the middle if I want to use it. So he brings a lot to the table. This guy has been playing cricket for such a long time doing well for his franchise, India, about time he grabs these kinds of opportunity. And in the last two games, what we saw is what Axar Patel is really all about. We are just waiting to see some of his batting skills as well. “
Rohit Sharma is full of praise for Axar Patel
“He’s such a calm customer at the back end of the innings there. He’s really grown into that finishing role. He’s been either at the top of the order or the bottom and I think he’s starting to do a wonderful job down there.”
Aaron Finch on the sublime form of Matthew Wade
Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo