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India hold edge over England in semis clash

It’s a do-or-die game and will be a test of nerves as well as skills for a place in the summit clash of the tournament at the huge Melbourne Cricket Ground on November 13.

S S Ramaswamy | Sydney |

India, aiming to clinch the ICC men’s T20 World Cup and end a 15-year title drought, hold the slightest of edges against their semi-final opponents England as the two teams prepare to battle it out at the Adelaide Oval tomorrow for a spot in Sunday’s final.

However, Rohit Sharma and his men in blue will need to play to their full potential to overcome the Englishmen, led by opener Jos Buttler, and keep on track in breaking their title jinx.

It’s a do-or-die game and will be a test of nerves as well as skills for a place in the summit clash of the tournament at the huge Melbourne Cricket Ground on November 13.

“We have got to be at our best to win the game,” said India captain Rohit Sharma at his pre-match media conference in Adelaide today.

India have been beaten once in the league stage of the competition, with South Africa proving too good for Rohit and his men on a bouncy pitch in cold conditions in Perth.

Their semi-final opponents for tomorrow, England, too lost one of their five group games, through the DLS method to Ireland in Melbourne in a rain-marred match.

While India won their remaining four games to top group 2, England’s match against arch-foes Australia got washed away without a ball being bowled and they won the other three.

India finished on top of their group with eight points while England ended up in a triple-way tie on seven points with New Zealand and Australia in their group and advanced by virtue of superior net run rate as the second-best team along with toppers New Zealand.

The recent past records and the overall display here are in favour of India gaining their entry into the final past England.

While India have two batters, former captain Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav in prime form, the same cannot be said of the England line-up.

Openers Buttler, already in the 100-game club, and Alex Hales have been among the runs, albeit not to the extent of Kohli, who is the leading run scorer with 246 runs to his credit, or Yadav (225 from five matches).

Hales has aggregated 125 runs, two more than Indian vice-captain K L Rahul who has two half centuries to his name.

Buttler has 119 in his kitty, but ace all-rounder Ben Stokes is yet to hit the straps and has just 58 runs to his name, a far cry from what he is capable of.

So too is the case with another key batter, Dawid Malan, who is not only off the boil but is also carrying an injury.

England are also sweating on the fitness of their express pace bowler Mark Wood who had to pull short on his training stint yesterday due to a stiff body.

Wood, with nine scalps, is a key member of the England bowling attack in which left arm pacer Sam Curran has grabbed ten victims including the only fifer by any bowler in the tournament.

The Indian think tank would be watching keenly on these developments.

“I think from all the information I’ve got at the minute, it looks like the wicket should be consistent for 40 overs,” said Buttler in his pre-game media conference about the track that has been prepared at the Adelaide Oval.

India had an injury concern of their own as Rohit was hit on the hand during a throw-down session in the nets yesterday.

“I was hit yesterday. There was a little bruising, but it’s absolutely fine now,” the Indian captain declared.

The Indian batting, in short, has performed better than England’s although captain Rohit, who has scored 383 runs in 14 games against the same opposition in the past with two fifties and one hundred in it, has been far from his wonted self.

Kohli, who is at touching distance of the 4000-run mark in his T20I career while averaging over 52 per innings, has a highly impressive record against England, having tallied 589 runs from 19 matches with a top effort of 80 not out off 52 balls as recently as in March at Ahmedabad.

Kohli expectedly looms large along with Surya whose audacious shot making is bound to test the England bowlers too.

In bowling, India have relied upon their pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh and Hardik Pandya for getting the wickets. They are expected to go in with the same combination against England.

It would be interesting to see whether leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal gets a look-in, after not playing in any of the five league games, in place of left-arm orthodox slow bowler Axar Patel as the other spinner to partner Ravichandran Ashwin.

“To be honest, not really worried, as such, because he hardly got to bowl in this tournament. Except that game against Netherlands he’s not bowled full overs of his quota, only because of the condition that is on offer,” Rohit replied when asked whether the team was worried about Axar’s economy rate.

“We’ve got four seamers who have bowled all of their quota, which means the spinners will not bowl their overs,” he added to buttress his point.

Both the ‘keepers Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant are “in play now (in the running to make the eleven)”, said Rohit.

Karthik played the first four matches while Pant was included in the last game against Zimbabwe.

Overall, India have scored seven victories over England in their last eleven clashes after the latter were dominating earlier, winning six of the teams’ first ten match-ups.