Pakistan vs England | Wednesday 11 November | Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium | Abu Dhabi | 12:45
Having played some outstanding cricket which lead to them defeating England 2-0 in the Test Series, Pakistan will now turn their attention to four upcoming ODIs, the first of which will be played on 11 November in Abu Dhabi.
The English public will be hoping for a better performance from the ODI squad which will look completely different to that of the group that did duty for the Tests. England’s Ashes victory earlier in the year seems to have provided a false account of how strong this English Test outfit really is. A ridiculously boring draw in first Test (thanks to a lifeless wicket) was followed by two convincing wins by the home side.
The Three Lions will be looking to turn it around in the shorter formats of the game, however, Pakistan will provide a stern test for a relatively inexperienced English outfit.
To Win Match
The men from the Sub-Continent head into the ODI leg of this tour brimming with confidence. Not only have they just defeated an English side fresh off a convincing Ashes win over Australia, they’ve also won the last three ODI series they’ve played, defeating Zimbabwe (home and away) and more impressively, an away victory over a strong Sri Lankan side.
Pakistan warmed up for the series with a match against Nepal, winning comfortably by 121 runs. The likes of Azhar Ali, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik and Babar Azam all got valuable time out in the middle; each one scoring more than 35 runs. Pakistan’s bowlers also put in a solid enough shift, restricting Nepal to just 205-5 on a batsmen-friendly wicket.
The ODI leg of this series may well come down to how well Pakistan’s spinners do – or rather how well England’s batsmen cope with the barrage of spin that'll be coming their way. Yasir Shah and Shoaid Malik will look to rip through the England top and middle order after Mohammed Irfan and either Wahab Riaz or Anwar Ali open the bowling.
If the Pakistani’s can get early wickets, expect the spinners to restrict the scoring, putting massive pressure on the middle and lower order to pick up the run rate toward the back of the innings. This Pakistan side should have no problem in chasing down mediocre totals in conditions that they've grown very accustomed to, so there will be added mental pressure on the English should they bat first.
The English will be desperate to redeem themselves in the ODIs after a 2-0 loss in the Tests saw them drop to sixth in the official ICC Test rankings. In the last 15 ODI series that the English have been involved in, they’ve only managed five wins – one of those coming against Scotland. They know that they’re going to have to play out of their skin if they’re to have any chance against a very settled Pakistan side.
In a bid to improve their potency with bat in hand, the English have enlisted the help of batting coach Julian Wood, who has spent four years developing batting techniques with Major League Baseball side the Texas Rangers. Wood was drafted into the England Lions setup for their five-match series against South Africa A. The result of his work saw a side which included Jason Roy, Sam Billings, Adil Rashid, James Vince and Jonny Bairstow – who have all since graduated to the full team – make two scores in excess of 375 while the full national side suffered a first round elimination from the World Cup.
The English will be looking to repeat the antics of the squad who last toured the UAE 2011/12. That side won the ODI series of the tour 4-0 after suffering defeat in the Tests. However, this squad is completely different to the one that got the job done in 2012, with Jos Butler and Eoin Morgan the only surviving of the last touring party.
The last time England played in the UAE, Alliastar Cooke and Kevin Pietersen opened the batting for the visitors, amassing four centuries between them. This time around, England’s opening pair of Alex Hales and Jason Roy are far more inexperienced. Neither one has managed a century in the 29 ODI innings they share. Much of what England achieve will come down to Eoin Morgan, if the captain settles on these sort of pitches, he can be absolutely devastating. He will need support throughout the innings though if he does get going. Whether or not this inexperienced batting line-up can provide that support remains to be seen.
The first ODI will be played at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi, on the same wicket which produced the snooze-fest that we witnessed in the first Test match. We can probably expect a high-scoring game where the team batting first will want to post a score in excess of 330.
Verdict: Eoin Morgan, Top England Batsman at 233/100
The England captain has proven his worth all over the world in just about any conditions. He looks good value to top score on a flat wicket. Alternatively, you could go for Pakistan to win at at 13/20, although there really isn't much value on offer with this particular market.