India will look to extend their unbeaten T20I series record against a resurgent England in the third and final match of series at the County Ground in Bristol on Sunday. India have won five consecutive bi-lateral series stretching back to September 2017.
The last time India lost a bilateral T20I contest was against West Indies in July 2017 (one-off match). India's last series defeat with more one T20I game also came against the reigning T20I champions, in Florida in 2016. In between those two losses to West Indies, India beat England 2-1 in a three-match T20I series at home in January 2017. That contest is notable because India were 1-0 down, and came back to win the series 2-1.
However, preserving that impressive record will require India to find their best form against a resurgent England. Following an 8-wicket defeat in the series opener at Manchester, the hosts hit back strongly in the second, winning the match by five wickets to force the series into a decider.
The key to India’s success may well lie yet again with the wrist-spinners, especially Kuldeep Yadav. Yadav scalped a career-best 5/24 in the first match but was rendered ineffective in the second where he recorded figures of 0/34. While his spin twin Yuzuvendra Chahal has claimed just one wicket in the two matches he has played so far in the series.
"They (England batsman) played Kuldeep really well. They did their homework on Kuldeep and they reaped the rewards. I think we competed quite well but England were the better side, that’s why they came through today (Friday)," Kohli said after the defeat in Cardiff.
India are already without the services of pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah for the series and therefore, the job of rattling the oppositions batting-order remains with the wrist-spinners with fast bowlers Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar not having made a very strong impression just yet. Yadav has managed to pick four wickets in two outings in the series so far but has leaked runs. Kumar has struggled of late and has just three scalps under his belt in his last five T20I innings.
India's top-order conundrum also remains a talking point for the team management ahead of the clash. The presence of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan has meant the in-form KL Rahul hasn’t been batting at his 'favourite' opening slot and it remains to be seen if India will consider restoring him to that role and dropping Sharma lower down the order.
England will be strengthened further by the return of all-rounder Ben Stokes from injury though it creates a selection headache for skipper Eoin Morgan. Alex Hales was included in the side in place of the injured all-rounder, but having starred in the series levelling win on Friday, he will surely retain his spot.
"He (Ben Stokes) comes into the squad for the next game and he is a fantastic player and it will be a difficult decision to make. We have made calls like this in the past and we will make the call for the benefit of the team and put out our strongest XI," Morgan told reporters after the second T20I.
"Alex (Hales) always makes it difficult particularly in T20 cricket. He has played a lot of T20 for us and he is a very experienced campaigner. An innings like that gives him a pretty strong case for the next game," he added.
England: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Jos Buttler (wk), Sam Curran, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, David Willey, Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Suresh Raina, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Krunal Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Hardik Pandya, Siddarth Kaul, Umesh Yadav.