South Africa left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi put his hat in the ring for a spot in the Test playing XI after picking up five wickets in the two-day warm-up match against Sri Lanka Board XI on Saturday.
Shamsi finished with 5-45 from 13.2 overs as the South Africans dismissed the hosts for 287 in Colombo. South Africa are in the island nation for a full tour that includes two Tests – starting on July 12 – five ODIs and one T20.
The South Africans did not field their main spinner – left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj – but found a highly effective option in Shamsi on a wicket that didn’t have a lot for the bowlers.
Returning fast bowler Dale Steyn failed to impress as he went for 52 runs from 12 overs without picking up a wicket and according to reports from Sri Lanka, did not look threatening. Young fast bowlers Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi were far more incisive on a docile pitch.
Shamsi chipped away at the middle order and kept the scoring in check after the hosts were at one point 161-2.
The SL Board XI included established batsmen like Angelo Mathews (92), Danushka Gunathilaka (53), Dhananjaya de Silva (28) and Kaushal Silva (76).
Less than 48 hours after England beat India by five wickets in the second T20 to level the three-match series at 1-1, the two sides will meet once again for the decider to be held at Bristol on Sunday.
India started the series on fire with a crushing eight-wicket win in the opener at Manchester before the hosts pulled things back at Cardiff.
With all to play for on Sunday, we look at the key talking points ahead of the clash.
ENGLAND FACE BEN STOKES DILEMMA
Ahead of the second T20 in Cardiff, England recalled star all-rounder Ben Stokes to the side for the final match. Stokes had missed out on the first two matches due to a hamstring injury but showed that he is back to full fitness with an unbeaten 68-ball 90 for Durham against Yorkshire in the T20 Blast.
Stokes’ late call up could have had something to do with Alex Hale’s struggles in the first T20 where the batsman scratched around for eight from 18 balls. However, Hales roared back into form with a match-winning unbeaten 58 in England’s win a Cardiff.
Skipper Eoin Morgan will need to make a tough call on how to possibly accommodate both Hales and Stokes. Other options for the England skipper are to drop Joe Root, which looks unlikely, or not include Stokes.
BATTLE OF WRIST-SPIN IN FOCUS
England were blown away by Kuldeep Yadav’s wrist-spin in the first T20 with the youngster returning with figures of 5-24 in India’s big win. How the hosts handled the wrist-spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep was always going to be the defining battle of the series.
Like the series, that battle is also locked at one apiece with England showing much better application in their handling of the pair in the second T20.
It will be interesting to see if India’s spinners alter their strategy after England’s new approach in Cardiff.
BRAGGING RIGHTS FOR REST OF THE SUMMER
With a three-match ODI series and a five-match Test series to follow, the outcome of the T20 decider could set the tone for the rest of the English summer.
Both sides have been in excellent form in white-ball cricket of late and are the two early favourites for the World Cup to be held in England next year.
A win for either side on Sunday could provide a much needed mental edge going into the rest of the clashes, especially the ODI series.
ROHIT AND DHAWAN EYE PERSONAL MILESTONES
While England has not been a happy hunting ground for Shikhar Dhawan so far in the series with a combined total of 14 runs, the India opener is closing in on 1,000 runs in T20I cricket. The left-hander needs 28 more runs to get to the landmark.
On the other hand, his opening partner Rohit Sharma is on the verge of becoming only the second Indian batsman to score 2,000 runs in the T20I format. The Mumbai-man is currently 14 runs short of the mark and should he reach the mark on Sunday, he will become only the fifth batsman overall to do so and the second from India after skipper Virat Kohli breached the landmark in the first T20 at Manchester.
The Australian batsman has played just seven Tests so far in his career and averages a lowly 26. His last Test appearance came during Australia’s tour of Bangladesh in September last year.
On Friday, Maxwell struck a 38-ball 56 in the T20 Tri-Series clash against Zimbabwe at Harare to lead Australia to a narrow five-wicket win.
“I would love an opportunity to play in the Test team again, I have had mixed opportunities with the Test side and probably haven’t quite grabbed it with both hands every time I have had the opportunity. If I do get the opportunity I will hopefully take it with both hands this time,” Maxwell was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au after his half-century performance.
The 29-year-old is targeting a return to the Australian Test side for the two matches against Pakistan which will take place in the UAE in October this year.
The right-hander was initially supposed to be a part of the Australia ‘A’ side which will tour India later this year but has now dropped those plans.
“I was hoping to go on it (Australia A’s tour of India), but as they pointed out I have been to India 16 or 17 times so there is no real need for me to go over there and prove what I can do,” he said.
“I got a Test hundred over there (India) last year and hopefully I can get up to Brisbane (to the Bupa National Cricket Centre) if I get the chance to go up there,” Maxwell added.
Maxwell will be in action once again on Sunday when Australia lock horns with Pakistan in the final of the T20 Tri-Series at Harare.