Teams look to seize lead - Third ODI preview
Third ODI - Pakistan v England in Sharjah
Start time - 15:00 local | 11:00 GMT
Promising but inconsistent. Three words that neatly sum up England’s year in all forms of the game.
Never was that put in to starker contrast than in the second One Day International last Friday where they comfortably beat Pakistan on the same pitch and ground that they had been trounced on two days earlier.
Friday’s game proved that when they play well, England will be a match for anyone in any conditions. What they lack is consistency, something that assistant coach Paul Farbrace alluded to before the game when he said his team need to develop a winning mindset.
They head to the third game of the four match series in Sharjah on Tuesday with more elements of their side falling in to place.
A modern one-day side needs an explosive top order but also a consistent one, and before the second game in Abu Dhabi last week, this observer questioned whether openers Jason Roy and Alex Hales were making the most of their chances.
That was emphatically answered by both with Roy making 54 and Hales 109, his first one-day hundred. A partnership of 102 in 17.3 overs showed the potential these two players have, and also why England have rightly stuck with them.
The trick for Roy and Hales is to now display the type of consistency that Joe Root has displayed for the last two years.
Another plus for England was the bowling performance of David Willey and Chris Woakes. Where Reece Topley looked England’s only likely bowler in the first game, seven wickets in the second for the two other seam bowlers was just reward for a much improved display. Woakes’ four wickets were his first for six games.
Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali had better days with the ball too, although had more runs to play with and a Pakistan side that fell to 50 for five. Rashid in particular looks a far more dangerous bowler when he has runs to play with, batsmen having to take risks against his good deliveries instead of waiting for the bad ones.
England’s attack still looks a little short of top class, and is missing genuine pace that the best sides have in their armoury. With Steven Finn and Mark Wood injured and Liam Plunkett not so far selected, they do have options for the future though.
Whereas England moved from the ridiculous to the sublime, so Pakistan’s performance went the other way. After being so commanding in the first game, they looked a rabble in the second.
There have been rumblings within the Pakistan team about the timing of Younis Khan’s retirement after the first ODI. Pakistan’s coach Waqar Younis described it as ‘unfortunate’ and it has certainly left the batting looking far too reliant on Mohammad Hafeez.
Selection has also been an issue, with two different openers partnering captain Azhar Ali at the top of the order, neither of whom is a specialist. They have Ahmed Shehzad in the squad, an opener who has played 72 games and scored six ODI hundreds but who has so far been overlooked.
It would be a surprise if he did not come in to the side, especially as Azhar Ali has not looked in good form. Pakistan need to ensure that Hafeez is protected and not exposed to the new ball as much as possible.
So far this series Pakistan have made several changes: Mohammad Rizwan came in to the side for the second game, replacing Bilal Asif, who had opened in the first game. Babar Azam, who had batted in the middle order in that game moved up to open on Friday and Iftikhar Ahmed replaced Younis.
Pakistan’s selectors need to settle on a formula and give the players a run, much as England’s have done. It would be a surprise if England made any changes to their side.
Pakistan’s bowling attack however looks far more settled and is proving their strongest suit. No doubt Azhar Ali will want to win the toss and bat first, hoping his bowlers can perform as well as they did in the last few overs of the second game in Abu Dhabi.
In Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz, Pakistan have two of the very best exponents of death bowling in world cricket. England scored only 27 runs off their last five overs and lost three wickets in Friday’s game.
Surprisingly, Yasir Shah received some punishment, his nine overs costing 70 runs. That does not happen often and shows how well Hales, Roy and Root played him, but he is sure to find the Sharjah surface to his liking.
Between 1984 and 2003, the ground hosted 198 ODIs but then became implicated in match-fixing scandals which has meant less cricket there recently. Last year, Pakistan played three ODIs at the ground, losing two and winning the other.
Rather like in Abu Dhabi, the pitch at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium is expected to be slow and low, much as it was during the Test match.
Whereas on quicker pitches, totals of 330 plus are now commonplace in ODIs, on slower surfaces, trying to get up to huge totals can be counterproductive as teams lose wickets trying to get there.
England found that to their cost in the first game but realised in the second that a score of 250 plus, often a walk in the park in England or Australia, puts pressure on the chasing team in these conditions. That is likely to be the recipe for success in Sharjah. Australia scored 255 here last year and won comfortably.
The series is set up nicely at 1-1 although with both sides offering up one excellent and one poor performance each, calling the winner for the third game is almost impossible.
England will be the happier side, with more players in good form which makes them slight favourites. But with Pakistan’s side containing plenty of proven match winners, it is all to play for.
England have more players in form after the second game in Sharjah and will be the more confident. England to win and take a 2-1 series lead.
1. Jason Roy, 2. Alex Hales, 3. Joe Root, 4. James Taylor, 5. Eoin Morgan (captain), 6. Jos Buttler (wk), 7. Moeen Ali, 8. Chris Woakes, 9. Adil Rashid, 10. David Willey, 11. Reece Topley
1. Azhar Ali (captain), 2. Ahmed Shehzad, 3. Mohammad Hafeez, 4. Ifthikar Ahmed, 5. Shoaib Malik, 6. Sarfraz Ahmed (wk) 7. Mohammad Rizwan, 8. Anwar Ali, 9. Yasir Shah, 10. Wahab Riaz, 11. Mohammad Irfan
© Cricket World 2015