Wednesday Jul 07 2021

Pakistan poised for victory owing to COVID-19 crisis in England camp

Pakistan players celebrate after dismissing an English batsman. Photo: Files/PCB
Pakistan players celebrate after dismissing an English batsman. Photo: Files/PCB 

Let’s face it, England made the last ODI series with Sri Lanka a one-sided affair. Be it Joe Root and Eoin Morgan in batting, or David Willey, Chris Woakes, or Curran brothers in bowling, England outclassed the Lankans in every department.

But the discovery of COVID cases in the English team and support staff has changed the scenario drastically. Englishmen appeared to be at the top of their game but now a fresh side has been announced for the ODI series against Pakistan, with Ben Stoke as captain. The rest of the squad consists of Jake Ball, Danny Briggs, Brydon Carse, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Lewis Gregory, Tom Helm, Will Jacks, Dan Lawrence, Saqib Mahmood, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Matt Parkinson, David Payne, Phil Salt, John Simpson and James Vince.

England is always considered a tough place to bat and bowl for sides from the sub-continent but the current situation presents a golden chance for Pakistani players to perform well and win a very important away series just before the T20 World Cup.

Historically speaking, Pakistan has played 48 one-day internationals in England against England and won 16. The Green Shirts lost 30 matches and two had 'no result'. Since 2010, Pakistan has won 5 out of 17 matches there and lost 11, with one match ending in a 'no result'.

If we see England’s overall performance in the 2020-21 season, they have played 15 ODI matches and won 7 with 2 no result matches. But due to the unfortunate incident of COVID cases these stats are almost irrelevant now. Pakistan, on the other hand, have won 4 out of 6 matches played during this time and as the English team lack experienced, solid players, everyone expects the Green Shirts to defeat their rivals handsomely.

If we look at the personal performance metre, one should have high hopes from ICC ODI batting topper, Captain Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman, placed at number 7. In England, Fakhar has a healthy average of 37 in 17 matches and Babar has 50 plus.

Imamul Haq also has a good 53+ average in England.

Mohammad Rizwan is in great form and so is Sohaib Maqsood. Both played wonderfully well in the recently concluded Pakistan Super League, so they must be feeling good about their batting prospects.

Haris Sohail is currently not taking part in practice matches so one can not say anything about him for sure.

Although we don’t have any bowler in the top 10 in the ICC ODI bowling list, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, and Haris Rauf look set to take on the upcoming challenge. A fit and performing Shadab Khan is also very vital for the Pakistan team’s balance.

Will Pakistan use the expertise of Usman Qadir in any of the ODIs? That remains to be seen.

The new English lineup has very few familiar faces on the international level. We all know about Jake Ball who has played 18 ODIs and grabbed 21 wickets with a not so attractive average of 46. Danny Briggs and Craig Overton both have played 1 ODI each.

Saqib Mahmood has so far played 4 ODIs, taken 5 wickets with the average of 31. Ben Duckett and Dawid Malan have decent batting averages of 41 and 45 respectively in 3 ODIs. Matt Parkinson has just played 2 ODIs but James Vince has played 16 matches with the batting average of exactly 23.

With 830 and 775 runs respectively against Pakistan in ODIs, Morgan and Root were the backbone of the English batting side, but unfortunately they are not available for selection now. The absence of the experienced Bairstow, Roy, Curran brothers, Woakes, Moeen, Adil and Wood is a huge setback for the English team.

So all in all, with high hopes of winning, Pakistan must be an under pressure team now.

The late replacement English side has nothing to lose. There was a reason for England to be at number 3 in the current ICC ODI team rankings but the situation has entirely changed, and although Pakistan has great potential, we are still at number 6.

Hopefully, we will be able to make some decent runs with a good strike rate and get the English wickets well within it.

All eyes are now at Cardiff, for the first ODI on July 8.

Khurram Siddiqi is a senior media professional and member of staff. He writes about sports and politics. He tweets as @siddiqi__