Big Picture

The colours red and black are more commonly associated with roulette wheels than soil types, but as is the case with that most deceptive of casino games, the surface on which this T20I series has been played has mattered little in the final analysis. What has really made the difference is the spin at the start, because the banker always wins in the end. Win the toss, bowl first, scoop the spoils irrespective of the action.

So it has proven in three consecutive fixtures between England and India at Ahmedabad. Emphatic margins on each occasion – by eight wickets, seven wickets and eight wickets again – with the zippier, dewy conditions for the team batting under lights offering more pace onto the bat, and consequently to the rope, and little wriggle-room for the team that has been asked to post a target.

But why let that not-so-hidden truth detract from the fun that’s to be had along the way? After all, you’d struggle to claim that the action to date has been anything other than compelling – with England’s surging pace onslaughts in the first and third games giving way to Ishan Kishan’s precociously composed destruction in match two.

And, as Virat Kohli set out to prove in arguably the innings of the series on Tuesday, there’s always the chance of winning big when your numbers come up. Kohli’s outstanding innings of 77 not out from 46 balls gave his team a puncher’s chance – and it required Jos Buttler to step up with a career-best innings of 83 not out to snuff out the prospect of a win against the head.

Irrespective of the results, if there is one clear pointer to have emerged from the first three games, it is that England – with just over six months to go until the T20 World Cup – have a far better idea of their best XI than India. When Mark Wood is fit (and the management of his pace-stressed ankles is a full-time job for the support staff), the raucous hostility that he and Jofra Archer can produce in the powerplay is a perfect dovetail for their pedal-to-the-metal batting approach. Full throttle in both disciplines makes for a very compelling sight, and a very compelling affirmation of their No.1 T20I ranking.

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