By Kieran Wellington
- Eoin Morgan’s men will aim to be the first team to win two out of two in this year’s World Cup
- Pakistan will be looking to bounce back from a harrowing seven-wicket defeat by the West Indies after being bundled out for their second-lowest score in World Cups
- In the bilateral series before the World Cup began, the lowest score in the four completed matches from either side was 297
NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND – England will be looking to make it two wins out of two when they face a Pakistan side low on confidence and low on form.
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Despite producing creditable performances against the host nation directly before the World Cup, Sarfaraz Ahmed’s men have now lost their last 11 completed ODIs in a row.
Just 35.2 overs were needed for West Indies to sweep aside Pakistan in Nottingham on Friday who batted brainlessly for 130 balls rather than regrouping and putting together a competitive total.
They are sure not to make the same mistake twice against the pace and bounce of Jofra Archer and co, and should be encouraged by their batting performances in the five-match series vs England, where they passed 300 on three occasions.
Pakistan are perennially inconsistent
We shouldn’t be surprised that Pakistan made such a poor start to a major tournament, and nor does that mean they should be disregarded.
The Pakistani faithful old enough to remember will recall their 10-wicket defeat in their first game of the 1992 World Cup – coincidentally against the West Indies – and Pakistan ended the tournament by lifting the trophy.
Only once in their World Cup history have they scored a lower total than on Friday: against tomorrow’s opponents England in the 1992 World Cup where they mustered just 74. They recovered in spectacular fashion to beat England in the final held at the MCG that year, so you can never write them off.
There does need to be some changes to the team though, just to make sure old scars aren’t quickly opened up, as this year’s relentless schedule can leave teams vulnerable to. Therefore, Pakistan should bring in Asif Ali when they retake the field at Trent Bridge – his strike rate of 131 in ODIs shows he is a true momentum-shifter.
But in order for his batting to have the required effect, Pakistan’s top order must show more backbone and set a platform for the rest of the team to fire from.
A lot may come down to the way Babar Azam constructs his innings – the world’s number one T20 batsman averages over 50 in white ball cricket and only a brilliant catch from Windies keeper Shai Hope prevented the number three from starting a recovery on Friday when he had battled to get himself set.
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England back to the home of runs
If England bat first, expect the number ‘500’ to waft around Trent Bridge tomorrow. Eoin Morgan’s men just love batting in Nottingham, having set the world record of 481 there against Australia last summer, beating their own record of 444 which, funnily enough, they set against Pakistan at Trent Bridge.
In their world record innings, Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow scored 159 in 19 overs for the first wicket, so expect Bairstow to bounce back from his first-baller in the opener.
Also expect Pakistan to open with spin as South Africa did to dislodge the Yorkshireman on Thursday, although England seemed to work out Imad Wasim in the five-match series last month, a spinner who in times gone by would have given England batsman vivid nightmares.
Alex Hales was a big part of both totals at his home ground, so Pakistan will be grateful his off-field antics have prevented him from playing any part. But Jos Buttler doesn’t often miss out twice in a row on English soil, so you can be sure the wicketkeeper will want to replicate his 51-ball unbeaten 90 he smashed in that 444 v Pakistan.
England’s bowling can now win them matches
What impressed fans and pundits the most about Thursday’s victory though was the way England defended a par-score. The term ‘flat-track bullies’ has been levelled at England, with the suggestion being they are excellent on pitches that only favour the batsmen.
But now, as proven by the slightly slow, tacky Oval strip on Thursday they not only have the maturity to settle for 310 rather than getting in a tangle trying to aim for 350-plus, they possess genuine pace, pace that can make even the best of batsmen look like a rabbit in the headlights.
A lot of pressure will build on Archer as this tournament reaches its latter stages, but for now he should ride the wave his performances have created.He got a short ball through the defences of Hashim Amla, a top proponent of back-foot batting, so quickly Amla was off the field for three hours.
Pakistani opener Imam-ul-Haq was also forced to retire hurt after being on the end of an Archer bouncer – it will be the biggest shock of the tournament if we don’t see that short ball used with great regularity by not just Archer but by the rest of the England quicks.
Either way, England have the arsenal to beat Mickey Arthur’s men convincingly – but writing off Pakistan in a major tournament is something you simply cannot afford to do.
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