After an enthralling outing in the first T20I in Mohali, India and Australia are set to lock horns in the second game in Nagpur on Friday (September 23). The visitors won the first encounter by four wickets, taking a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
India set Australia a daunting target of 208 runs but the World T20 defending champions got there in a canter courtesy of a blitz from Cameron Green and finishing touches from Matthew Wade. India had a few concerns with their bowling, which will only be further under the microscope in the build-up to the T20 World Cup next month.
In the grand scheme of things, this series is an opportunity for both sides to test themselves against the best. Despite that, both teams will want to lay down the marker and win the series in the build-up to the major tournament. This makes the second T20I a must-win contest for Rohit Sharma's side.
On that note, let's take a look at three player battles that could prove to be decisive in the second game of the series.
#1 Rohit Sharma vs Josh Hazlewood
Rohit Sharma leads from the front and embodies the attacking approach he wants his side to adopt and play with. The Indian captain has been ultra-attacking in the first six overs, looking to set a template for his side to try and make the most of the powerplay.
While this approach has been questioned by a few, the skipper continues to believe that this is the right way forward. Against Australia, he'll come up against one of the most dangerous bowlers in the powerplay, Josh Hazlewood.
The metronomic fast bowler is one of the most economical bowlers in the powerplay, who also provides key breakthroughs up front. The outcome of his battle against an ultra-aggressive Rohit in the powerplay could set the tone for the rest of the innings and perhaps the game.
#2 Aaron Finch vs Bhuvneshwar Kumar
This was a matchup that was dominated by the Australian captain in the first T20I at Mohali. With Aaron Finch smacking 22 runs off Bhuvneshwar Kumar's first two overs, the opening batter set the tone for his side in the powerplay. The surprising part about that, though, was the fact that this is a matchup that Bhuvneshwar has had the upper hand in over the years.
In the IPL, Finch has scored only 19 runs off the 21 balls he’s faced against the Indian medium pacer, having been dismissed once. In T20Is, he's only scored 55 runs off 48 balls, having been dismissed twice.
Fair to say, despite his issues at the death, Bhuvneshwar's ability to swing the new ball certainly causes a few problems for the Aussie captain. Come the second T20I, the Indian bowler will look to have the upper hand in this battle once more as he tries to get an early breakthrough for his side.
#3 Tim David vs Jasprit Bumrah
Tim David has consistently been one of the best finishers in the shortest format of the game in recent times. A string of excellent performances around the globe over a period of two years have earned the former Singapore international his first call-up for the Australian side and welcomed him into the big leagues.
He had a quiet game in the first T20I, but the bulky batter will be looking to make his mark and show what he's all about, if and when he gets the chance. India's death bowling has been a concern in recent times, and question marks over it emerged once again after they lost the series opener.
Jasprit Bumrah's return will be a welcome one for the Indian side as they look to address their death bowling issues with the T20 World Cup not far away. Whether Bumrah will be able to hit his stride right away after a spell on the sidelines remains to be seen, especially when he comes up against his destructive Mumbai Indians teammate.