Pakistan vs England | Friday 20 November | Dubai International Cricket Stadium | Dubai | 12:30
Pakistan produced one of the most awful ODI performances in recent memory when they slump to a second consecutive defeat against a young, and largely untested England side. Take nothing away from the young Lions, though. To produce a match-winning performance in these sub-continent conditions – the sort of conditions that haunt the nightmares of English batsmen – is nothing short of remarkable.
The turnaround is especially extraordinary when you consider how poor the English ODI team has been since their farcical first-round exit at the World Cup earlier this year. Joe Root and his men now have an opportunity to wrap up the series when they next face the beleaguered Pakistan side in Dubai on Friday.
Where to start with this Pakistani side? Having won the toss, the home side elected to bat on a pitch that offered nothing – absolutely nothing to the English bowlers. There was no swing to speak of, absolutely no seam and precious little spin on offer. Azhar Ali and Babar Azam got off to a slow, but steady start.
From then on, however, things fell apart very quickly for the men in green.
Having been cruising at 132-2 with more than 20 overs remaining in their innings, a score of 280+ was looking good on a wicket that was giving England’s bowlers no assistance. Once Mohammad Hafeez top-edged a cutter from David Willey to deep square leg, things began to unravel. Pakistan would go on lose Sarfraz Ahmed, Iftikhar Ahmed and Anwar Ali in quick succession.
These dismissals, coupled with some appalling running between the wickets – which accounted for three more wickets – meant Pakistan were reduced to 208 all-out. Had it not been for a lower-order cameo from Wahab Riaz, the hosts may well have ended their innings with a sub 180 total. Some harsh words would have been exchanged in the change room during the innings change over, Azhar Ali would have demanded that his spinners to dominate on a wicket that was beginning to offer up some decent turn.
In fairness, the home side’s bowlers did an excellent job of applying pressure and would eventually reduce the English to 93-4. Jason Roy and Alex Hales – the stars of the last ODI – were unable to replicate their heroics this time around. The pocket-sized James Taylor and the explosive Jos Butler took full advantage of some atrocious ground fielding, wicketkeeping and catching to guide the visitors home.
Azhar Ali and his men will need to snap out of the two-game slump that has seen them lose consecutive games to a young England side who traditionally struggle in UAE conditions. A series that they looked on course to win comfortably after the first ODI, is now in dire need of rescuing. They will head to Dubai with renewed vigour, desperate to level the four-match series.
The Pakistani management should stick with the same side that did duty on Tuesday afternoon. While they under-performed woefully in the last ODI, they have more than enough quality to come back and beat the English. With a sound balance between batting prowess, menacing pace and bamboozling spin; I’m convinced that they can bounce back on Friday.
English cricket fans will be absolutely ecstatic with how Chris Woakes has performed in the last two ODIs against Pakistan. England’s young bowling all-rounder had failed to bag a single wicket in the six games prior to the second ODI of this tour. By dropping his length slightly and making better use of his cutters, he’s managed to pick up eight sticks in his last two appearances.
There are still question marks surrounding Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali, though. Are they really the two spinners that England will want to employ moving forward? They’ve been largely ineffective throughout this series with the ball in hand. They’ve bowled a total of 56 overs between them in the three ODIs and have only managed to bag five wickets – that return is simply not good enough on these sort of wickets.
Most impressive, however, is the way the responsibility has been shared by several of the English batsmen this series. Eoin Morgan and James Taylor shared the responsibility in the first ODI while the top three of Roy, Hales and Joe Root made the bulk of the runs in the second. Finally, James Taylor and Jos Butler took England over the line in the last ODI on Tuesday evening.
If they are going to wrap the series up on Friday night, they are going to need similarly good performances from the likes of Woakes and David Willey and Ross Topley with Rashid and Ali contributing more on a turning wicket.
The fourth ODI is set to take place at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium – and although conditions look as though they’ll suit Pakistan’s game more; England will look back at the last two ODIs they played here against Pakistan fondly. The visitors won both fixtures here by 9 wickets and 4 wickets during their last tour in 2012.
Conditions shouldn’t be too different from those we experienced in the last ODI in Sharjah. Winning the toss will be massively important for both sets of players as batting will be more difficult under lights.
Verdict: Pakistan to win at 11/10
I still thank Pakistan have more than enough quality to turn their two-game slump around. They won’t make the same silly errors that they did last time out at Sharjah. Expect a much more polished display from the hosts, who will be desperate to atone for their poor showing last time out. Back them to get the job done at 11/10.