England vs Pakistan 1st ODI Preview: Pakistan should be wary of Stokes-led brand-new England squad
The England side, with nine uncapped players and Ben Stokes as captain, will have nothing to lose while Pakistan will be under additional pressure due to the ignominy of a potential loss to a second string side.
Irony written all over it
What an irony this has turned out to be. When England could afford giving chances to a few of their fringe players in the final ODI against Sri Lanka, with the team having already won the series and the opposition not putting up a fight, Eoin Morgan resisted the idea in order to earn maximum possible points in the the ODI World Cup Super League.
However, when the time arrived to face a stiffer opposition - and Pakistan would have certainly given even England's best XI a run for their money - none of the first-choice players in the England ODI squad are available for action, at least in the ODIs.
Silverwood and Stokes called back
The turn of events occurred after England were hit by seven positive COVID-19 cases right before the Pakistan series. As a result, the entire ODI squad has had to isolate after being deemed close contacts. The new 16-member England squad has as many as nine uncapped players.
Ben Stokes, who was set to rest and recover and be ready for the five-match Test series against India, was called upon to lead the side. Head coach Chris Silverwood, who was on scheduled break, will also have to return to his duties.
Crawley, Vince to open
Don't be mistaken, even this second string England side is not ordinary by any stretch of imagination - a testament to England's depth.
The team is likely to go with Zak Crawley and James Vince as the openers. Crawley has found some form in the T20 Blast while Vince was called up as a replacement for opener Jason Roy when he was injured in the 2019 ODI World Cup.
A glaring omission is Alex Hales who would be wondering what else he needs to do in order to right the wrongs of the past.
Dawid Malan is a ready-made replacement for Joe Root at number three while captain Ben Stokes is expected to bat slightly higher up at number 4 and take more responsibility. He is expected to be followed by Dan Lawrence and Ben Duckett.
Despite the presence of John Simpson in the squad, Ben Duckett is likely to be preferred over the specialist wicket-keeper. Lewis Gregory will provide balance to the side with his all-round ability.
Onus on Mahmood and Parkinson
Matt Parkinson, who has had to wait his turn, will get a chance to prove his spinning prowess against some quality subcontinent batsman equipped to handle spin. Pacer Saqib Mahmood is all but certain to be a part of the playing XI.
Both Jake Ball and David Payne can make the cut. Ball has been bowling quite well in the ongoing T20 Blast and is in fact the joint second-highest wicket-taker in the competition. He has been the best bowler for Notts Outlaws and has picked up 18 wickets while bowling at an average of 15 and an economy rate of 9.37. Gloucestershire's Payne has 10 scalps from 8 games.
Additional pressure on Pakistan
Pakistan, who were fretting over the lack of match practice, might take a sigh of relief against an overhauled England ODI squad.
However, this will also add pressure because losing to England in England is one thing, and losing to effectively an England A side is totally another.
Opportunity for Sohaib Maqsood
They have their top order sorted with Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan taking the top four spots. There are a couple of openings in the middle order. Haris Sohail and PSL find Sohaib Maqsood are likely to fill them.
Faheem Ashraf and Shadab Khan will be in the role of all-rounders while Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi and Haris Rauf are expected to be Pakistan's three specialist pace bowlers.
Here's a look at the probable playing XIs:
England - Zak Crawley, James Vince, Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes (c), Dan Lawrence, Ben Duckett (wk), Lewis Gregory, Matt Parkinson, Jake Ball, David Payne, Saqib Mahmood
Pakistan - Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Haris Sohail, Sohaib Maqsood, Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf
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