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England vs Pakistan ODI Series - Preview

Eoin Morgan and Hasan Ali

Ever since its surprise 24-run Test win against England in 1954, Pakistan have enjoyed some memorable cricket moments at The Oval in south London. More recently, on its way to a rare success against India, it proved its mettle with a thrilling display, in the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy. 

Two years on, skipper Sarfraz Ahmed seeks inspiration from the previous 50-over success at the ground. The great support from Pakistani fans has often turned The Oval into ‘home away from home’. Sarfraz expects his young side to open the five-match ODI series with an impressive performance. Its batting, bowling and fielding will need to up a notch to test, a balanced and in-form England side, one of the strong favourites to reach the semi-final stage of the World Cup.

The invitation by ECB to play a series in the conditions that are set to prevail in the forthcoming 50-over World Cup, provides Pakistan with ideal preparations for the coveted ICC tournament.

With six pacemen in its 17-man squad Pakistan will be seeking for a right combination and eventual squad to be reduced to 15 for the World Cup. Twenty-seven year old Mohammad Amir, no longer capable of posing a threat with the white new ball, has been handed a chance not only reclaim his spot but also to save his international career. The absence of wrist spinner Shadab Khan, who is also the side’s best all-rounder, a victim of hepatitis virus, is a huge blow for Pakistan.

It is going to be nervous few weeks for Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the team management, for Shadab needs to report fully fit by 23rd May, to play any part in the World Cup. Shadab’s replacement Yasir Shah, is one of the best in the business but sadly thus far, only in red ball cricket. His variety of fizzy leg-breaks and googlies, has never quite found the desired momentum in ODIs and one also recalls his failure to hit headlines in the 2015 World Cup, staged in Australia and New Zealand.

Amongst Yasir’s predecessors, Abdul Qadir and Mushtaq Ahmed, played key role as front-line wicket-taking bowlers, in four of Pakistan’s World Cup campaigns, from 1983 to 1996. In the 2011 World Cup played in the sub-continent, captain Shahid Afridi, bowled as well as he had ever done in his career, to lead his side into the semi-final. A quality spinner has been an essential part of the success in the ODIs and without Shadab, Pakistan will find it hard to take wickets in the middle overs.

The present Pakistan squad will need to play out of their skins to have any chance against England, a clear favourite to clinch the five-match ODI series, starting at The Oval today.

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