Congratulations to Pakistan on becoming the new world No.1 test team. I’m sure it feels all the sweeter because they’ve reached the top at India’s expense. Unfortunately however, Pakistan haven’t been anywhere near as successful in ODIs recently. In fact, they currently languish as low as 9th in the world rankings. That’s two places lower than Bangladesh. Hmmmm.
Pakistan’s problem, on paper at least, seems to be their batting. There’s no Misbah, no Younus, and therefore no real spine. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of logic either. Mohammad Hafeez, who opened in the test matches, looks like he’ll bat at No.3, whereas Azhar Ali, who batted No.3 in the tests, looks like he’ll open. Explain that one?
Fortunately, however, Pakistan’s bowling should be very strong. And if you’ve got a good attack that’s capable of taking wickets, you’re usually in with a shout. We saw at The Oval what a difference a fit and firing Wahab Riaz makes to Pakistan’s team. If he can bowl quickly and provide a real spearhead then England will be tested. Throw the experienced Umar Gul into the mix – a bowler I’ve always quite liked – and suddenly you’ve got a decent unit. It looks like Amir and Yasir will get the support they didn’t always have in the test series.
As for England, we begin the series in great form and with an embarrassment of riches to choose from. It’s crazy really. Not long ago our test team was very solid but our ODI side had less depth than a paddling pool. It’s the complete opposite these days. I find it remarkable that Jonny Bairstow can’t make the team and the talented Ben Duckett can’t even make the squad.
England’s lineup looks strong in all departments. The batting, as discussed, looks formidable. Hales, Roy, Root, Stokes and Buttler are all match-winners on their day. The bowling, which isn’t quite as talented, also looks strong now that Mark Wood is back. It’s just a shame that Ben Stokes probably won’t bowl for a while yet. It means that Moeen will have to bowl his full allocation of ten overs (unless Root sends down a couple). Personally I hope Dawson gets a run at some point during the series. It would be good to look at another spinner with the tour to India coming up.
Now it’s time for my usual ill thought through and highly irrational and subjective predictions. It’s the moment that sends a shiver through every professional cricketer’s spine. After all, they know that once TFT backs them to win, career-shattering defeat is more or less certain.
On this occasion, I’m backing England to win the series 4-1. I just sense that we’re on a crest of a wave in ODI cricket whereas Pakistan are languishing at the very bottom of some pretty extreme doldrums. Most sportsbooks agree, with England as short as 1/4 to win the series. That’s pretty emphatic.
Having said that, Pakistan’s bowling attack should make the games entertaining to watch. I’m guessing their best strategy is to bat first, put runs on the board, and then hope their bowlers can defend something relatively modest. They’ll have to take wickets at regular intervals though as England bat all the way down to number nine or ten.
Hales catching is (again) not making the case for his test retention. A questionable opener who is a far from reliable pair of hands is too much of a liability.
Fielding is very important to Bayliss. England desperately need a good close catcher (behind the wicket) in the test team, so when they’re assessing potential candidates having a safe pair of hands is definitely an advantage.
I am sure you are right about Bayliss, but it would be useful if he gave even a minimum of thought as to where a fielder is best used. I gave up on England’s management of fielding when they used Bell at slip (where he rarely fields for Warwickshire) and then had the gall to complain when he dropped catches.
I posed this question to Jimmy Anderson before the last Ashes series and he said Bell had the best pair of hands in the squad and he a definite at slip.
Fair enough – but if he’s still of the same opinion, he’s not a great judge of slippers…
To be fair, Bell was a pretty safe pair of hands in the slip cordon until his last 12 months or so – his slip catching declined pretty much in line with his batting. Whether it was an overall confidence thing or his eyes started to go or what I don’t know, but he did take his fair share in there.
Good to see Ballance back in the runs, but does anyone think it slightly off that as acting captain he didn’t enforce the follow on, and then batted on until his century before declaring (Bresnan’s couple of wickets just now and tomorrow’s excellent weather forecast suggest it’s not going to be a major issue).
The ECB have confirmed the Bangladesh tour is going ahead.