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3rd T20I (N), Bengaluru, January 17, 2024, Afghanistan tour of India
(20 ov, T:213) 212/6

Match tied (India won the 2nd Super Over)


Expect big runs in T20I series finale, but don't go looking for World Cup answers

It's India last T20I game before the World Cup, but the tournament is only in June and there's a whole IPL to get out of the way first

Big picture: Final T20I crucial and irrelevant at the same time

It has been nearly five years since India lost a bilateral men's T20I series at home. They have won 13 in that time, and drawn two.
It's a proud record, and it must mean a lot to India's players and coaching staff, but what does it actually mean in an attention economy devoted to the ICC event cycle? In one vocal and hard-to-please corner of social media, Sunday's series-sealing six-wicket win against Afghanistan was notable chiefly for India's refusal to bat first after winning the toss. They hadn't challenged themselves enough, and to not challenge yourself with a T20 World Cup imminent is, well, unpardonable.
That T20 World Cup is now even more imminent. The series finale in Bengaluru is India's last T20I before that tournament. That tournament, however, is still nearly five months - and an entire IPL season - away.
Bengaluru, then, occupies a strange and hard-to-categorise space. It is both a crucial game in the lead-up to a global tournament and a dead-rubber match far removed from any event of real significance. If it is to mean anything at all, that meaning may only become apparent months from now.
How much simpler it must be, then, to merely play the game, and truly live it one ball at a time.

Form guide

India WWWLW (last five completed T20Is, most recent first)
Afghanistan LLWLW

In the spotlight

Axar Patel has had a terrific series with the ball, and Washington Sundar a tidy one, and while neither has had a chance to bat as yet, the presence of two spin-bowling allrounders at Nos. 7 and 8 enabled India's top order to bat with freedom in the first two T20Is. Conditions in the West Indies - and possibly the USA - may allow India to use this combination during the T20 World Cup, and the flat pitch and short boundaries of Bengaluru will give them another chance to pressure-test it.
Afghanistan's lack of batting firepower has often stopped them from turning their bowlers' good work into wins against top teams. Their hopes of breaking their T20I duck against India may, therefore, rest on the shoulders of their most dangerous top-order batter. While India shackled Rahmanullah Gurbaz successfully in Mohali, he threatened to break free in Indore, where he rushed to 14 off eight balls before he mishit Ravi Bishnoi to mid-on. Afghanistan will hope Gurbaz can turn those signs of rhythm into a meaningful contribution.

Team news

India may give one or more of Sanju Samson, Kuldeep Yadav and Avesh Khan a go in Bengaluru with the series already in the bag.
India (possible): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Yashasvi Jaiswal, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Shivam Dube, 5 Jitesh Sharma (wk), 6 Rinku Singh, 7 Axar Patel, 8 Washington Sundar, 9 Arshdeep Singh, 10 Avesh Khan/Ravi Bishnoi/Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Mukesh Kumar.
Qais Ahmad was the leading wicket-taker in Afghanistan's last series before this one, against UAE. There is a chance he may get a chance in Bengaluru if they feel the need for a legspinner.
Afghanistan (possible): 1 Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), 2 Ibrahim Zadran (capt), 3 Gulbadin Naib, 4 Azmatullah Omarzai, 5 Mohammad Nabi, 6 Najibullah Zadran, 7 Karim Janat, 8 Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 9 Noor Ahmad/Qais Ahmad, 10 Naveen-ul-Haq, 11 Fazalhaq Farooqi.

Pitch and conditions

The M Chinnaswamy Stadium is renowned for its run-fests, but there are times when the venue belies that reputation. The most recent T20I here, a thriller in December, was heavily influenced by the spinners, with Bishnoi and Axar combining to take 3 for 43 in their eight overs as India successfully defended 160 against Australia.
That match came close on the heels of the ODI World Cup, which featured five Bengaluru games. The groundstaff have had plenty of time since then to prepare a fresh pitch for this game, so more typical Chinnaswamy conditions can be expected. There was a generous tinge of green on the pitch on the eve of the match, though much of the grass cover is likely to be trimmed before the start of play.
The forecast promises a clear, pleasant evening with temperatures in the mid-20s Celsius.

Stats and trivia

  • Mohammad Nabi is 67 runs away from becoming the second Afghanistan batter to score 2000 in T20Is
  • Nabi (98) and Najibullah Zadran (95) are closing in on 100 sixes in T20Is
  • Axar needs one wicket to become the ninth India bowler to 50 in T20Is
  • Of India players with at least 200 T20I runs, Rinku Singh (176.07), Yashasvi Jaiswal (163.81) and Shivam Dube (149.45) have three of the four best strike rates. Suryakumar Yadav (171.55) is the other member of the top four
  • Quotes

    "Coming to India is pretty tough, but it gives us a good base about where we are and it exposes you in areas that perhaps need improvement. So that's great for us. Especially going forward to the [T20] World Cup and wanting to be as good as we were in the previous 50-over World Cup and hopefully we can go even better."
    Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott on his expectations from the final T20I

    Karthik Krishnaswamy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

    Win Probability
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    100%50%100%IND InningsAFG Innings

    Over 20 • AFG 212/6

    Match tied (India won the 2nd Super Over)
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