England’s T20 middle order ‘needs looking at’, says Nasser Hussain after latest defeat to India

Nasser Hussain says England’s middle order “needs looking at” after Eoin Morgan’s men fell to an eight-run defeat to India in the fourth T20 international in Ahmedabad.

Defeat leaves the series perfectly poised, tied at 2-2, going into Saturday’s series decider – live on Sky Sports Cricket from 1pm – and Hussain pinpointed England’s trio of left-handers in the middle order as something that might need to be broken up.

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Chasing 186 to win on Thursday, the tourists were well placed at 131-3 in the 15th over, with Ben Stokes (46) and Jonny Bairstow (25) having put on a 65-run partnership.

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But the game turned with the fall of the latter, and India seamers Shardul Thakur (3-42) and Hardik Pandya (2-16) swiftly ran through lefties Stokes, Morgan (4) and Sam Curran (3) in the next three overs, finding joy when taking pace off the ball, bowling off-cutters away from the left-handers.

“That middle order needs looking at,” Hussain said after the game. “Three left-handers going in one after the other, up against a bowler [Thakur], who finds bowling off-cutters to left handers very easy.

“[Dawid] Malan at the top, using up deliveries, left the left handers in the middle order with a lot to do against a good death bowler.

“When the two right-handed lower-order batsmen, [Jofra] Archer and [Chris] Jordan got in, Thakur couldn’t go to his off-cutter, he had to try something different and that threw him a little bit.

“It’s incredible how the game has changed; that’s why they talk about these ‘match-ups’, as the moment the ball is coming into the arc, you get belted out of the ground – whether it is spin or seam.

“England’s three left-handers, coming in one after the other, just gave the momentum to India.”

The issue isn’t an easy fix for England, however, requiring either Liam Livingstone or Sam Billings – both right handers – coming in from the squad, or a reshuffle of the batting order, both of which could prove problematic, says Michael Atherton

“One of the problems is that you’ve got the captain [Morgan] who, clearly, will play, Stokes who is a bowler and Curran a bowler. So it’s not quite so straightforward as ‘get rid of one and bring a right-hander in’.

“That then goes back to the argument that Rob [Key] has been having throughout, about the role of [Jos] Buttler at the top of the order.

“It’s not a straightforward conundrum to solve for England but, I agree, I thought England’s chase showed both strengths and weaknesses.

“You had the 14th and 15th overs when Bairstow and Stokes were in, against two spinners sending it different ways – Washington Sundar and Chahar – and that’s the point about the left and right-hander combo, there’s always going to be the option for a single to swap it.

“Those two overs I think went for 33. But, to Nasser’s point, once the wicket fell – Bairstow getting out – you’ve then got three left-handers in a row.

“It was a point we made after the second game which India won; what is your obvious, bog-standard slower ball to bowl at them for your right-arm bowler? It’s your off-cutter, and, if the pitch is holding, it is mighty effective.”

Former Indian batsman Dinesh Karthik, part of Sky Sports’ coverage for the series, weighed in on the debate, adding that he’d drop Malan from the team and move Stokes up the order to try and solve the problem.

“If I know Morgan, he’ll stick to the same XI and make sure he gives them confidence.

“But, for me, I have nothing against Malan – I think he’s a good player – but I think Stokes should bat at No 3, with the intent he showed, the way he was taking on the bowlers.

“If it was Roy, Buttler, Stokes, with Bairstow at No 4 and Morgan No 5, that’s the way I’d look at it. That looks pretty solid to me.

“Malan at No 6 maybe, but personally I’d have Billings there. That’s the way I’d look at it.”

Watch the fifth and final Twenty20 international between India and England live on Sky Sports Cricket from 1pm on Saturday.

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