Pakistan seek a response with the bat after two failed displays at Cardiff and Lord’s
Anyone in need of a pick-me-up this morning? Can I interest you in a tale of a band of plucky underdogs, thrown together in adversity at 48 hours’ notice, charged with defending their nation’s honour against the sixth-best ODI team in the world, and doing so with such aplomb that they now stand on the brink of a 3-0 series whitewash? Okay, so it’s not quite the homecoming narrative that the British sporting public had been gearing up for this week, but I’m afraid it’s the best we can offer right now.
Yes, it’s the climax of the Royal London One-Day series, between England and Pakistan at Edgbaston. And no, that’s not quite a match for England versus Italy in the climax of Euro 2020. But given that the BBC were waving their forthcoming coverage of the Hundred at some 30 million viewers during the half-time interval at Wembley, maybe a handful of those heartbroken fans will be minded to flick channels a few days early on Tuesday and take solace in the fortunes of England’s other national team.
And therein lies a strange irony about the live sports-watching experience. Whereas an agonised throng at Wembley would happily have sold their grannies for a similarly angst-free display of dominance on Sunday night, you suspect the patrons at Edgbaston wouldn’t mind a little more jeopardy to spice up their occasion.
None of which has much bearing on the upcoming event, of course. Pakistan being Pakistan, they are perfectly capable of bouncing back from consecutive thumpings with a display of irresistible flair and aggression; but England’s spare-parts XI has hit the ground purring in its first two well-oiled outings. They seem well placed to make it a hat-trick. And what Harry Kane and Co. would have given for one of those at Wembley…
England WWWWL (Last five completed games, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Pitch and conditions
With the series already sealed against Sri Lanka at Bristol last week, England resisted the temptation to give their bench an airing – with Tom Banton and George Garton now doubly unlucky not have got their chance given the Covid chaos that broke out in the squad soon afterwards. And with that precedent in mind, there’s little reason to think that England will change their approach now – with World Cup Super League points up for grabs, they’ll be loath to tinker with an unexpectedly successful formula, unless they feel the need to manage Mahmood’s workload with the T20Is coming up. An unchanged XI seems likely, although Jake Ball was given an energetic work-out in England’s practice session on Monday.
England: (possible) 1 Phil Salt, 2 Dawid Malan, 3 Zak Crawley, 4 James Vince, 5 Ben Stokes (capt), 6 John Simpson (wk), 7 Lewis Gregory, 8 Craig Overton, 9 Brydon Carse, 10 Saqib Mahmood / Jake Ball, 11 Matt Parkinson
Pakistan need to change their fortunes, but other than wishing for a return to form for Babar Azam, it’s hard to see how a wholesale switch of personnel can help their cause. Fakhar and Rizwan are similarly proven performers with the bat, while Saud Shakeel’s maiden fifty at Lord’s was a timely confirmation of his abilities too. There’s more room for an overhaul in the bowling, however. Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali have led the line well, but their support cast has let them down, notably Haris Rauf and the allrounders Faheem Ashraf and Shadab Khan. Mohammad Hasnain may be due an outing.
Pakistan: (possible) 1 Fakhar Zaman, 2 Imam-ul-Haq, 3 Babar Azam (capt), 4 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 5 Saud Shakeel, 6 Sohaib Maqsood, 7 Shadab Khan, 8 Faheem Ashraf, 9 Hasan Ali, 10 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 11 Haris Rauf/Mohammad Hasnain.
Stats and trivia
“15 of the current squad in isolation. Buttler and Archer injured. What @benstokes38 and the team have achieved is incredible. Looking forward to watching the next game!”
Eoin Morgan, England’s captain-in-exile, delivers his Twitter verdict on the team’s performance in the opening two games.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
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