Time: July 8, 5:30 PM IST
Venue: Sophia Gardens, Cardiff
The pitch appeared two-paced in the T20Is between England and Sri Lanka last month. The pacers had fun then, and if they get their variations right, the batters will find it difficult to keep the scoreboard ticking.
England have as many as 9 uncapped players in their squad, and they have many combinations to try. The toss will be fascinating. It will be a task for Ben Stokes to remember the playing XI.
Probable XI for England: Phil Salt/Zak Crawley, James Vince, Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes (c), Ben Duckett (wk), Lewis Gregory, Craig Overton/Will Jacks, Craig Overton/David Payne, Brydon Carse/Jake Ball, Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson
Sohaib Maqsood was in fine form in the Pakistan T20 League, but pitted against him for the middle-order spot is the talented Saud Shakeel.
Probable XI for Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Saud Shakeel/Sohaib Maqsood, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Hasnain
We have opted for a fantasy cricket team based on the recent performances, overall impact, and credit points.
Players to watch out for
Ben Stokes likes challenges. He thrives on them. And although he was looking forward to playing County to prepare for the India series, this series must have gotten him pumped and excited. He has good numbers at the venue, scoring 211 runs and taking 6 wickets in 5 ODIs.
Babar Azam’s chances of success have scaled up. He won’t have to face the likes of in-form Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, among others but a group of newcomers. He has had enough success in the English conditions. In 12 ODIs, he has managed 500 runs at a stunning average of 45.
Dawid Malan scored a spectacular 76 against Sri Lanka in the last T20I, and must feel lucky to have been rested for the ODIs before the new squad was announced. He will be England’s batsman to watch out for.
Mohammad Rizwan has been as magnificent as Babar in all levels and forms of cricket. He finished at the second spot in the list of most runs in the Pakistan T20 League – only behind Babar.
Shaheen Afridi has had a brilliant time with the ball this year. He took 16 wickets in 10 games in the Pakistan T20 League and has sniped up 30 wickets in 15 international games.
Such is England’s bench strength that James Vince has to be left out of the full-strength squads. A few good scores should make his case stronger.
Jake Ball took 18 wickets in a mere 9 games in the English T20 League – the most by an Englishman.
Before England were forced to announce the new side, they had an upper hand in the series. Jonny Bairstow fired on all cylinders. Chris Woakes went bonkers. And Sam Curran hit the right spots. England enjoyed their time against Sri Lanka. Now, with the second-string side and against a strong Pakistan lineup, they will have to punch well above their weight to put up an even fight.
Pakistan’s bowling unit is far, far superior, thick on numbers, and favourable for the pitch and conditions. For England to put the visitors on the back foot, they will have to bowl as well as the Pakistanis.