With the Test series ending in a 2-2 stalemate, England and Pakistan now head into the one-day series, looking to gain the ascendancy early on. Pakistan won the fourth Test to square the series. As such, they would have the momentum going into the one-dayers. But, England are a much more powerful side in the format. They have really reached a new level in the last few months. Pakistan, on the other hand, may be the Test number one, but they have struggled to make an impression in the ODI format lately.
One of the key reasons behind England’s renaissance as a one-day outfit has been their new found aggressive approach, particularly in the batting. They have chosen players who have that aggressive streak in them, and the results have been out there in the open. The positives begin right at the top with Jason Roy, who was in stupendous form against the Sri Lankans. He will be keen to carry on in the same vein. Alex Hales has also shone in the one-day format. But, he had a terrible Test series, so it remains to be seen how much it affects him.
In Joe Root, skipper Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes and wicket-keeper batsman Jos Buttler they have a high-class middle order, which can pose a threat to most opponents. Each of the abovementioned players can be a match-winner on his day. Of all the players, the swashbuckling Buttler is the most dangerous. Jonny Bairstow may have been successful in keeping him out of the Test side, but not in the one-dayers. In the bowling, Liam Plunkett and Chris Woakes will lead the pace attack even as Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali would be expected to play a good role in the spin department.
Pakistan may have feasted on the Irish attack, but they clearly will be tested against England. Sharjeel Khan smashed a brilliant 152 off 86 balls. He will be confident going into the first match, but it would be interesting to see how he responds to the English challenge. Mohammad Hafeez had a torrid series in the Tests. He really doesn’t possess a great international record, yet keeps getting picked. The opener will get another chance to revive his career in the one-dayers. The series will also be critical for ODI skipper Azhar Ali as he has been struggling for runs in the format.
A lot will depend on veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik as Pakistan look to compete with England. His solidity with the bat is particularly important for Pakistan. The aggression of Sarfraz Ahmed is also something Pakistan will be looking forward to. In the bowling department, Umar Gul will be under pressure as he is making a comeback. But, they have some genuine match-winners in Yasir Shah, Imad Wasim and Wahab Riaz. Left-arm seamer Mohammad Amir has also been retained. He had a mixed time in the Tests, and would hope for more consistency in the ODIs.
--By A Cricket Analyst