Semi-final spot on the line in Mohali
Sunday, March 27, 2016
Start time 1930 local (1400 GMT)
And so, here it is. The last game in Group 2, a straight knockout match between India and Australia. They have arrived here not via long and winding roads, but short and parallel ones. Both lost their opening games of this tournament to New Zealand. Both beat Pakistan. And both scraped home against Bangladesh, though not without some palpitations. Now, 12 days after the tournament proper began, the parallels will end, with one of these teams to move through to the semi-finals.
Not that everything has been the same for these two teams. India's selectors have stuck firm throughout the tournament, using the same 11 players in every match so far. Australia have made changes in every match and have used 14 of their 15 squad members, with fast bowler Andrew Tye the only man yet to be chosen.
Australia were similarly unsettled when these two teams met in a three-match series in Australia in January, India using only 11 players (the same 11 from this World T20) and Australia trying a whopping 19 different men. There's flexible and then there's frantic, and it's not clear which Australia have been in T20 cricket recently. They lost all three games to India in that series, yet have done enough to get themselves one match from a World T20 semi-final.
The last time India played at home to Australia in a world event was the quarter-final of the 2011 World Cup, when MS Dhoni's men triumphed in Ahmedabad. They went on to win that tournament at home, one of the greatest moments in Indian cricket. If they are to repeat that success in the World T20, they must first get through this quasi quarter-final.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Handling spin has never been a strength of Australia's, and Ravindra Jadeja will turn the ball away from a batting order heavy on right-handers. Jadeja is India's leading wicket taker in this tournament (though with only four to his name that may not be saying much) and will hope to find whatever turn there is in a Mohali pitch expected to be on the slow side.
James Faulkner occupies an extremely important role for Australia in this tournament, his batting key during the late stages of an innings and his bowling offering an important point of difference, as Australia's only left-arm seamer. His use of the slower ball earned him a five-for against Pakistan, and at the same venue he would be dreaming of the same kind of performance against India.
India have not changed their side so far in the tournament; don't expect them to start now. An unchanged XI is almost certain.
India (probable) 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Yuvraj Singh, 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Ashish Nehra
Australia have ummed and ahhed in this tournament, unsure whether to stack the team with allrounders or trust the specialists, and their batting order has been constantly changing according to the team balance. It is just possible the batting group may stay the same for this game, though Nathan Coulter-Nile must be under pressure to retain his spot in the attack having failed to take a wicket in three games this tournament.
Australia (possible) 1 Usman Khawaja, 2 Aaron Finch, 3 David Warner, 4 Steven Smith (capt), 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Shane Watson, 7 James Faulkner, 8 Peter Nevill (wk), 9 Adam Zampa, 10 John Hastings/Nathan Coulter-Nile, 11 Josh Hazlewood.
Pitch and conditions
There were plenty of runs in the Mohali pitch against Pakistan when Australia made 193 for 4, and spin played less of a role than it has at some venues. A slowish surface is again expected, and it must be noted that by the time the men walk out for the toss the pitch will already have been used for 40 overs, with the India Women and West Indies Women playing on the same pitch in their match earlier in the day. The forecast for Sunday is good.
Stats and trivia
- India have won the past five T20s between the sides, with Australia's last win having come at the 2012 World T20 in Sri Lanka
- Against Pakistan, James Faulkner became the first Australian to claim a five-wicket haul in a T20 international
"This format requires you to be at the top of your focus and concentration for 120 balls with the bat and on the field as well. That's the only thing we can look to do."
India batsman Virat Kohli
"I suppose that's what I've learnt over my whole career - it is a very important game but really you've just got to put it in the context that it's just another game."
Retiring Australia allrounder Shane Watson puts things in perspective
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale