Reasons To Be Fearful: Why England Will Lose the ODIs To Pakistan

Playing ODIs at the end of test series is a bit like having foreplay after sex. Just as you’re ready to go to sleep after the main event, you’ve got some fiddly business to attend to. ODIs were so much more satisfying when they served as the warm-up to the test series. Heaven knows why they swapped them around.

However, while the prospect of an ODI series in the UAE is usually about as thrilling as a post coital trip to the local STD clinic (or so I hear), I’m actually looking forward to these games for a change. England played some excellent limited overs cricket last summer, and it will be interesting to see if they can sustain their momentum on slow pitches overseas.

Can we be successful in the upcoming series? Most definitely. Anything is technically possible. I do think it will be hard work though. Although we won the ODI series the last time we played in the UAE (after losing the tests of course) this England team is a rather different animal.

Although it could be argued that England are a better ODI team now than they were a few years ago, it’s arguable whether this applies in alien conditions. Much as we’d all prefer to play these matches back at Headingley or the Riverside, they’re actually taking place in a broad geographical area where England have traditionally struggled: a large land mass known as ‘anywhere outside the UK’.

What’s more, although we won 4-0 against Pakistan three years ago, Pietersen and Cook scored literally two thirds of our runs in that series (go and look in the archives). They’re not available for various reasons this time – I assume because they’ve gone camping together.

England also boasted a number of other players who had performed consistently well in Asian conditions last time out: Swann, Trott and even Ravi Bopara (who had played a little IPL) all played their part. This time England’s team is an unknown quantity. I accept it’s an exiting unknown quantity, but it’s an unknown quantity nevertheless.

Unfortunately, the little we do know about the current group of players doesn’t particularly bode well either: the likes of Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow have struggled mightily against spin bowling on slow tracks in the past. What’s more, the quality of our own spin bowlers is frightful. Moeen is in desperately poor form and I fear the worst when it comes to Rashid against this opposition.

What’s more, England are missing all the bowlers that gave Pakistan a hard time in the test series. There’s no Anderson, Broad, Wood or Stokes. The seam bowler who did all the damage back in 2012, Steve Finn, is also missing through injury.

In their place, England have a rather motley crew of county hopefuls. While the likes of Jordan, Willey, Woakes and Topley can look like reasonable performers on English pitches, where the new ball can swing and seam around, none of them are top quality bowlers at this stage in their career. They’re neither quick, unorthodox, experienced nor particularly skilful. They’re possibly the worst group of seamers to represent England overseas for a long time. There, I said it.

England’s cause isn’t completely without hope, however. Although England’s squad is likely to be as comfortable as Bruce Reid on ice-skates if the pitches turn, Pakistan are no great shakes in limited overs cricket at the moment either. Yasir Shah hasn’t been as successful in ODIs as in test cricket, and there’s no Saeed Ajmal to worry about either.

Having said that, Pakistan are probably better than their world ranking of 8th suggests. They’ve messed about with their team in the past – which was tantamount to rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic – but their selectors have shown more consistency of late. The current team seems a lot more settled.

The inclusion of four spinners in their squad – Yasir, Zafar Gonar, Shoaib Malik and Bilal Asif – suggests they’ve correctly identified England’s Achilles heel too. Although, to be fair, they’d have to be pretty stupid to miss it.

Although I fancy Pakistan to win the series, the games should at least be pretty entertaining. The bottom line is that neither of these teams is particularly good – and when two bad teams play against each other, the results are usually very watchable: no position will be insurmountable because both teams will be equally capable of collapsing in a heap at any moment.

The sideshow to the series, of course, is whether Alex Hales can score some runs and force their way into the test side for South Africa. It will be interesting to see how Hales shapes up against Wahab Riaz. I have severe doubts about his ability to face the new ball at international level but he does have some talent. It will be interesting to see if he’s worked on his batting technique – as well as his tea-making technique – over the last few weeks. We wish him well.

I’ll also be interested to see how Hales compares to Jason Roy. Although I was initially a sceptic when Roy was selected last year, the Surrey biffer actually caught my eye in the end. He looked a lot more organised and composed than Hales did against the new ball. Maybe it’s just my desperation for England to find their own version of David Warner talking here, but Roy looked a lot more suited to the rigours of test cricket than Hales. We’ll see.

James Morgan


  • Thanks James – an interesting read. I’m looking forward to the series for the clash of ODI styles (philosophies even). Pakistan are – along with SL – the last bastion of old-school ODI tactics. They often seem content to post about 240 and rely on wicket-taking bowling. Essentially, they are treating ODIs as shorter Tests.

    England, on the other hand, have gone more for the ODIs as short T20s approach. Power-batting and specialist containing bowlers seem more the order of the day. It was the approach most other teams had at the WC – but now the ODI rule changes may have shifted things back more towards the old-school again. Are England ahead of the curve – or behind it?

    Hope you don’t mind me mentioning the ‘competition’ (!) but for anyone interested, and who’s not seen it yet, there’s a lively debate at BOC about the HK match, ODI status and the role of the press (with comments by John Etheridge, David Hopps, Lawrence Booth and Andrew Nixon).

    • Thanks Simon. Cheers for the heads up about the debate on BOC. I certainly don’t see Dmitri & Chris as competition! I wish them all the best. I’m a little weary of debate about the press to be honest though. I’d like to take EMS in a slightly different direction. There are lots of good journalists out there (as well as some I don’t enjoy reading) and explaining the nuances without naming names, and making it personal (something I don’t want to do), is extremely difficult.

  • Interesting that you’re so negative on this one James!

    I actually think England have a better chance than the tests. Reasons:

    I really like the look of Roy and think he fulfilled his role really well against Australia. Hales, I imagine, will be the more cautious of the two, especially with his eye on playing SA and wanting to avoid poor performances that might jeopardise that. Roy will need to lead the line selflessly to provide that initial positive momentum as he has previously, and I think he’s capable of that.

    I’ve gone off Ali in tests, but I actually think ODI may be the best long term bet for him and more suited to his skills set. I know it was only Hong Kong, but him coming in lower down the order and biffing his way to 70 whilst contributing plenty of overs for bowling reminds me of where he is very useful. And whilst he may not be the best spinner, in ODIs where batsmen attack more his ability to get lots of wickets from bad shots seems to come into play more.

    I think you underrate Willey – I have actually been really impressed with him, particularly with the new ball which I think he has used very well. And I gather he can offer lower order runs too which we haven’t really seen yet. A bit of an unseen hero for me.

    Topley I will watch with interest as he’s very young and sounds like there’s lots of promise there. I am in favour of the strategy of using ODIs as a an access point for the youngest players to internationals.

    Finally with the the ODI team I actually more often than not (and more than the Test team) expect them to score big these days as they have the players. It may be partially unfounded, but this for me comes from the evidence of the NZ / Aus ODIs. This puts less pressure on the bowlers. I think England have the players now to score big, and all it takes is two or three to have a good game to achieve it.

    Susceptibility to spin is of course an issue, although I wonder if the positive ODI approach of hitting them out of the park and riding your luck at times will be more effective than the more conservative Test approach.

    • I don’t think England have a choice actually. They must attack the spinners and try to hit boundaries. We don’t really have the ability/skill to rotate the strike and pick up singles and twos. We’ll just get bogged down. I agree that Mo is a better ODI player by the way. He keeps his cool pretty well as a bowler. Re: Willey, I like his batting a lot more than his bowling.

  • I concur with a lot of this James in that I think the series will be a struggle. At best this could be a learning curve for some young inexperienced players. I’m not convinced this batting line up has the skill or nous to work the ball around so it could be sh1t or bust in terms of totals.
    Our bowling attack could be horribly exposed and like you I’m non plussed what Willey thinks he is – at best a pinch hitter who can get through some overs. For a guy who has moved to Yorks to progress his all round game, he has showed inconsistency shunning a lions tour for a BBL pay cheque. I will be disappointed if he stunts the development of players like Fisher.
    Back to England and the side show, first of all Hales has to establish himself as an ODI player. Personally with an average of c20 he’s lucky to be in this side. It’s a long time since a player has lived off one innings (wasn’t it a t20 ton?) and carried so many people on a bandwagon. I like the look of Roy, he seems to have developed (Stewart/Sangas influence) and in time may be the test no 5 we’re looking for. Not an opener for me and I’m looking the other way for a proper opener in the form of a Compo or Carbs to protect an attacking middle order.

  • I don’t think Willey’s stats bear out the criticism – in his last four England performances (incl. HK) he has 4/43, 1/13, 3/51, 2/34. Bowling average of 24 in six ODIs.

    • Most of which came late summer on helpful pitches. He’s little more than a medium pacer, operating at 78-82 mph, which isn’t quick enough for international cricket unless the rest of the package is very special. Last time I looked his first class average was over 30 and I doubt he’ll be an automatic pick in yorkshire’s championship side when everyone is available. Bresnan, Brooks, Plunkett etc are all better bowlers imho. I do think Willey has something about him though. He has a fiery temperament and I like his batting. I just don’t think he’ll be particularly effective as a pure bowler in international cricket, although he might be able to play a role.

      • I’m not sure where he fits into the Yorks LVCC side as you’ve highlighted the above and also need to throw in the likes of Sidebottom, Patterson and the up and coming Fisher.
        He will strengthen the limited over sides and my gut feel is he will become a gun for hire…BBL etc

      • They may have been good pitches, but his stats were comparable / better than all other England bowlers during those matches (Wood, Plunkett, Rashid, Ali, Topley included). Seems to be a similar story against NZ.

  • England surely have around an evens chance in the one day game. Freed from the test match shackles of having to survive long periods, they are quite capable of posting competitive totals.

    Interesting snippet from today’s Times – Billings apparently has the fastest hand speed when batting, at around 105mph, compared with the normal 95mph.
    A ball speed leaving the bat of somewhere around 83mph is apparently required for the average six.


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