Australia – Purely and simply, Australia threw away what should have been a comfortable win on Friday night. Now, a loss on Sunday would see its chances of series wins in all three formats this summer gone. With 106 runs required off 75 balls and all 10 wickets in hand at Manuka, Aaron Finch’s side stalled in the middle overs and struggled for any momentum. Yes, it’s a side without the likes of Warner, Cummins, Stoinis, Agar and Carey but depth will be needed when the T20 World Cup rolls around in 12 months’ time. Chasing is undoubtedly becoming an issue. It was just three months ago (in the First T20 against England) that, requiring 39 off 36 balls with 9 wickets in hand, the Aussies similarly choked.
But while the batting was poor, improvement is needed in the closing overs with the ball. Australia conceded 46 runs off the final three overs despite Mitchell Starc, one of the world’s best at the death, bowling two of those. A hamstrung (and concussed) Ravi Jadeja still managed to plunder 30 off his final 10 balls. Former T20 coach (and Australian player) Tom Moody said it was the side’s current weakness. “Australia is getting a lot right in white-ball cricket but an area that needs particular attention is their death overs. Without nailing this department you’re always vulnerable,” he tweeted.
Team-wise, they will have to consider opening with Matthew Wade, who was wasted down the order on Friday night. Finch himself could be an injury worry, too, with a sore hip.
India – Once again it was the ultra-competitive, always-in-the-contest Jadeja that India have to thank for their 1-0 series lead. The cricketer once labelled a mere ‘bits and pieces’ player single-handedly fired India beyond 160 and ensured they’d have a competitive total to bowl at. But the main man in this tour to date is almost certain to miss the second and third T20s with a hamstring strain. Given the short turnaround, it’s hard to see him making another impact on this tour. His replacement Yuzvendra Chahal, initially left out of the XI, came in as a concussion substitute and claimed man of the match honours. He will almost certainly come back into the XI on Sunday.
Despite the Jadeja heroics, it was a lacklustre effort from an Indian top-order oozing with talent. Even KL Rahul, who was the only player to reach a half-century, struggled to time the ball despite coming off a dominant IPL. Sanju Samson was the only player who looked dangerous, but his stay was over before it really got going. Debutant T Natarajan was terrific again with the ball and is likely to hold his place. India could rest Mohammed Shami (ahead of a long Test series) for Jasprit Bumrah at the SCG.
Betting – Without Warner, Cummins, Stoinis and Agar this Australian T20 XI all of a sudden looks slightly disjointed. And if India’s top order fire, they should take an unassailable 2-0 series win on Sunday. In the individual markets, after back-to-back 62-ball tons in the ODIs, Steve Smith has failed twice and will be raring for a big one at number three. With the ball, Adam Zampa is undoubtedly the most in-form short-format bowlers for Australia at present and he remains the premier top wicket-taking option. For the tourists, Kohli looked in inexplicably good touch before a strange dismissal on Friday night. Assuming he avoids the same fate, he could go on to a big one. With the ball, as in Game 1, I’m remaining with Chahal. Although this time he likely won’t need to come through the back door as a concussion sub.