Australia – On the back of a series win in the ODIs, Aaron Finch and co will look to lay down another early marker in the second format to be played this summer. Despite a T20 series loss to England in September, the Aussies have won nine of their last 12 T20 Internationals and are a much-improved outfit compared with 18 months ago. While the focus is on the here-and-now, Justin Langer will have one eye on the T20 World Cup which is now just 12 months away. England reaffirmed their status as the world’s best with a convincing series win over South Africa this week, and Langer will want to continue bridging that gap.
Team-wise, there could be further changes to the Australian XI given Pat Cummins (rested) and David Warner (injured) remain on the sidelines, while niggles to Mitchel Starc and Marcus Stoinis that kept them out of the third ODI could also see other players given an opportunity. With a seamer vacancy and Kane Richardson unavailable, look for death bowling specialist Andrew Tye to come back into the fold. Daniel Sams is also an outside chance for his international debut, if not this game then in games two or three.
India – If Australia’s recent T20 record is strong, India’s is even more impressive. With 11 wins in their last 12 games, Virat Kohli’s men are a force in the game’s shortest format. And with every player in this current squad competing yearly in the world’s best competition in the IPL, there’s little wonder why.
Virat Kohli’s men got their tour underway with a consolation win in the third ODI on Wednesday, and given many of those players will transfer to the T20 XI, the confidence boost can’t be underestimated. Despite failing to land a knockout blow in the series, Kohli looks in fine touch while Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja have transferred their strong IPL form to the Australia tour. Shardul Thakur and T Natarajan made an instant impact at Manuka, too, and if selected will present a challenge for the Aussies.
With Pandya again likely to play as a specialist bat, the Indian selectors could look to bring in all-rounder Washington Sundar as a sixth bowler/power hitter. With the form Jadeja is in with the bat, he is also a strong chance of being placed at number seven and asked to do the job he repeatedly did for Chennai Super Kings recently in the UAE.
Betting – On an individual form basis, India’s players were streets ahead of Australia’s at the recently-concluded IPL and on that basis, I’m tipping them in the T20 series opener. Assuming Matthew Wade comes in as a direct-swap for David Warner at the top of the order, he could have an immediate impact and represents good value as the home side’s leading runscorer. With the ball, Adam Zampa’s form in the ODIs warrants backing. With the tourists I’ve similarly opted for an opener to top the runscorer tally; that being IPL top scorer Shikhar Dhawan. And while he had an ODI series to forget, look for Yuzvendra Chahal to bounce back in Canberra.