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England aim for unlikely repeat of 2012 - Pakistan-England ODI series preview

Abu Dhabi will host the opening match of the four-game series
Abu Dhabi will host the opening match of the four-game series
©REUTERS / Action Images
 

After a spirited but ultimately disappointing performance in the Test series, England head in to the one-day leg of their tour to the UAE with several players out of form and with questions to answer.

Jos Buttler is the biggest worry, left out of the last Test match and missing the vibrancy he displayed when he first broke in to the England side. Moeen Ali has been ineffectual with bat and ball on the tour and Adil Rashid had about as difficult a debut series as one could have imagined.

Throw in the absence of Ben Stokes, rested from the one-day series, and questions over England’s openers, and there is plenty to interest.

Joe Root’s return to the side after missing the one-day series against Australia as part of England’s rotation policy will help, adding some much needed ballast to the batting line up. He will bat at number three, with the captain Eoin Morgan at four and James Taylor at five.

England have a decision to make as to who keeps wicket, with Buttler favourite to play ahead of Jonny Bairstow.

The first game in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday starts a four-match ODI series which will be followed by three T20 matches. With the T20 World Cup in India fast approaching in the new year, this is a chance for England’s young side to get used to subcontinental conditions

How they deal with Yasir Shah will define the series, as it did in the Test matches in Dubai and Sharjah. It is no coincidence that the two games Shah played, Pakistan won.

England ODI squad: Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, James Taylor, Reece Topley, David Willey, Chris Woakes

Pakistan ODI squad: Azhar Ali (captain), Aamer Yamin, Ahmed Shehzad, Anwar Ali, Babar Azam, Bilal Asif, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Rizwan, Rahat Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Younis Khan, Zafar Gohar

Azhar Ali captains Pakistan’s one-day side after Misbah-ul-Haq’s retirement from one-day cricket after the World Cup. Younis Khan, who has not played one-day cricket for Pakistan since that tournament has returned to the squad and will add plenty of class and experience to the middle order alongside Mohammed Hafeez and Shoaib Malik.

The make-up of the Pakistan squad, with seven players over the age of 30, is in stark contrast to England’s which has only one 30-year-old in Liam Plunkett. England are looking ahead to the next World Cup and should outfield Pakistan.

The Pakistanis were knocked out of the World Cup by eventual winners Australia in the quarter-finals, but provided one of the lasting memories from the tournament in Wahab Riaz’s spell to Shane Watson. It was a spell of stunning aggression, pace and drama.

Riaz’s ability to reverse swing the red and white balls at pace makes him so dangerous, as witnessed in the second Test, and will test England’s lower middle order, one that will be asked to propel the team past 300 in the later overs.

He will share the new ball with Mohammad Irfan, another left armer, who has been variously measured by the PCB as somewhere between 6’8” and 7’1” in height.

While Pakistan’s attack will be boosted by their best two bowlers from the Test series, England’s will be without their standout performers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Both are still available for one-day cricket but have not been selected since the World Cup.

It will fall then on David Willey, who took four wickets in the warm-up game against Hong Kong at the weekend, Reece Topley and Chris Woakes to provide the seam bowling, with Ali and Rashid the spin. Plunkett and Chris Jordan will also feature at some stage.

Predictions

"Pakistan are narrow favourites because they are in conditions they know well and have Yasir Shah in their ranks but England have proved adept at learning quickly and have a young side with plenty of talent.

"A drawn series for me: 2-2."

Rob Johnston

"This is a relatively inexperienced, albeit exciting England side taking on a Pakistan side comfortable in these conditions.

"Although England have made great strides since the World Cup, I feel Pakistan will be too strong so am taking them to win 3-1."

John Pennington

Moeen Ali will move back to the middle order where he scored a quickfire 76 against Hong Kong and bat at number six.

Pakistan have won their last three series, beating Zimbabwe twice and Sri Lanka, creating some momentum after suffering a 3-0 whitewash at the hands of the much improved Bangladesh in April.

England beat New Zealand at home during the summer but lost 3-2 to Australia at the end of the season, suffering a thumping defeat in the deciding game.

Conditions in Abu Dhabi, where the first two games will be held, are likely to be similar to the Test series. The pitch will be sluggish and take turn. The temperature is forecast to be slightly milder than it was for the Test, although 37 degrees will not feel so to England’s players.

With the pitch being sluggish, the best time to bat will be against the new ball. Azhar Ali and Ahmed Shehzad for Pakistan and Jason Roy and Alex Hales for England will be tasked with getting their sides off to a flier but also batting long.

Hales and Roy are especially important for England. Too often in the past they have both made a flashy starts before getting out, something they need to rectify. With the middle order sure to be tested against Shah in particular, big scores from the top order are vital.

Hales is another England player with plenty to prove. Just two half centuries from 20 games is a poor return and a good series would push his claim for selection as Alastair Cook’s opening partner in the upcoming Test series in South Africa.

Azhar Ali with an ODI average of nearly 47 and Shehzad with six ODI hundreds, are a far more experienced and established pair than their English counterparts so it is vital that Willey and Woakes use the new ball well. It may be that it swings for only a few overs so they have to get it right.

Early wickets will aid Rashid and Moeen Ali, bowling as they will to batsmen who can afford to take less risks. If Pakistan get good starts, England’s spinners may find themselves getting more of the same treatment as in the Test series.

Last time England were in the UAE in 2012, they won the one-day series 4-0, with Kevin Pietersen scoring two big hundreds opening the batting. A repeat would be unlikely but not unthinkable.

Paul Collingwood has joined England’s coaching staff for this trip, captain of the only England side to have won a global one-day trophy when they took the World T20 title in 2010 in the Caribbean.

Eoin Morgan’s side have plenty of potential but the test against an experienced Pakistan side, and Shah and Riaz in particular, will tell us all we need to know about the chances this young side have of repeating that feat in India next year.

Expected line-ups

England: Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, James Taylor, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Reece Topley

Pakistan (Same side as against Nepal): Azhar Ali, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed, Anwar Ali, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Irfan

 

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