There will be a T20I in Malahide on Sunday, and the match will hold different meanings for the two teams contesting it.

For an India side missing a number of regulars, this is another step on the way to figuring out their combination for the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year. They’ll have, in Hardik Pandya, their seventh captain across formats since the start of 2021, and, in VVS Laxman, a stand-in coach.
They went through their last series without making a single change, but there’s a chance now that they might hand out a new cap or two. Umran Malik, Arshdeep Singh and Rahul Tripathi thrilled a lot of viewers during the recently concluded IPL season. Will one or more of them – as Rohit Sharma did, just over 15 years ago – begin a fulfilling international career on Irish shores?

Ireland will have an eye on the T20 World Cup as well, but this India game also represents a long-awaited chance to test themselves against marquee opposition.

Since last year’s T20 World Cup in the UAE, Ireland haven’t played a single T20I against a Full-Member team. They’ve played a fair few Associate oppositions in this period, but their record hasn’t been hugely encouraging. After a loss to Namibia put them out of contention for the Super 12 stage of last year’s World Cup, Ireland went to Lauderhill and suffered a shock defeat against USA. Either side of those reverses, they also lost five successive T20Is against UAE.

Ireland will hope they can do a lot better over the coming weeks, but it’ll be a stiff challenge, because their drought of Full-Member fixtures is about to give way to something of a feast. After India, they’ll face New Zealand, South Africa and Afghanistan over the course of this home season.

Ireland LWWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)

Paul Stirling was widely reckoned to be unlucky to go unsold during the IPL 2022 auction, but it’s possible that teams ignored him because he doesn’t have a particularly good T20I record against top teams. It’s not entirely his fault; in a career stretching back to 2009, he’s only played 16 games against Australia, England, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies (and none at all against New Zealand). In those 16 games, he’s only reached 20 on one occasion – when he scored a match-winning 47-ball 95 against West Indies in January 2020. He’ll want to show he can mix it against the best oppositions, and to do that, he’ll need to overturn a recent run of poor form: his last five innings, all for the Birmingham Bears in the T20 Blast, have brought him scores of 0, 0, 0, 2 and 17.
A lot of talk leading up to the series has revolved around the changes India might make, but there’s one incumbent who’ll hope he can make a significant impact before the regulars return. While Ishan Kishan ended the recent series against South Africa as its highest run-getter, his opening partner Ruturaj Gaikwad endured a difficult time either side of a brisk half-century in the third game, with his other four innings bringing him scores of 23, 1, 5 and 10. While Kishan has solidified his place in a hypothetical full-strength India T20I squad, Gaikwad needs to do more to remain among the immediate set of back-up options.

Ireland (probable): 1 Paul Stirling, 2 Andy Balbirnie (capt), 3 Gareth Delany, 4 Curtis Campher, 5 Harry Tector, 6 Lorcan Tucker (wk), 7 George Dockrell, 8 Andy McBrine, 9 Mark Adair, 10 Craig Young, 11 Josh Little.

Will India have a debutant on Sunday? “We want to give opportunity to people but want to play our best XI as well,” was Hardik’s answer to that question in his pre-match press conference. Your guess, therefore, is as good as ours.

India (probable): 1 Ishan Kishan, 2 Ruturaj Gaikwad, 3 Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Deepak Hooda, 5 Hardik Pandya (capt), 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Axar Patel, 8 Harshal Patel, 9 Avesh Khan, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal.

There have been three 180-plus first-innings totals in the last five T20Is in Malahide, and the team batting first passed 200 in each of the three matches before that, including Scotland posting a surreal 252 for 3 against Netherlands on the back of George Munsey’s 127 off 56 balls in September 2019.

Andy Balbirnie, the Ireland captain, expected good batting conditions. “It’s usually pretty good and it’s fairly true and you kind of get value for your shots, so I don’t really expect too much difference.”

“I don’t know if that [spin] will be the biggest weapon. I hope not because they [India] have some amazing spinners in their team. [Yuzvendra] Chahal has been very successful for India and had a really good IPL campaign”
Ireland captain Andy Balbirnie hopes conditions in Malahide won’t be too conducive to spin.