After the Test battle between Pakistan and England, which was won by the former, the teams will now battle in out in the one-dayers, beginning with the first one at Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Without doubt, Pakistan would be the more confident of the two sides, but one-dayers are a different format, and England would look to begin afresh. Both the sides enjoyed themselves in the practice games, with England beating Hong Kong and Pakistan defeating Nepal without much trouble. Although a lot cannot be read into the wins, both sides would like to take the positives from their respective victories.
Following the change in format, there will be changes in leadership for both sides as well. Azhar Ali will lead the side for Pakistan while Eoin Morgan will take over the reins for England. The latter would have a tough task on hand as England have traditionally struggled in Asia irrespective of the format. Also, while they reclaimed the Ashes under Alastair Cook, they went on to lose the ODI series at home against Australia, in a closely contested battle, which the Aussies won 3-2. Morgan will have to channel his resources smartly if England are to make an impression in the series.
For England to do well, their openers need to be in form. Alex Hales did not get an opportunity in the Tests, but he is most certain to open with Jason Ray in the one-dayers. Hales did not enjoy a lot of success against the Aussies, and so he will be under definite pressure to perform. Ray also will have his task cut out. Runs will be expected from skipper Morgan and James Taylor as well as Moeen Ali. Jos Buttler will be under pressure to get some runs. In the bowling, with no James Anderson or Stuart Broad, England would look forward to notable efforts from David Willey, Reece Topley, Chris Woakes, and Liam Plunkett.
As mentioned earlier, Pakistan would be the more confident of the two sides. Their batsmen are in form for sure. Azhar would be keen to lead from the front. And, although Shoaib Malik lost his form after a stupendous comeback double hundred in Tests, he will be a far more dangerous batsman in the shorter format. Interestingly, Pakistan have sprung a surprise by recalling veteran Younis Khan. It would be interesting to see what he has to offer. Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfraz Ahmed and Ahmed Shehzad will be the other key batsmen in the Pakistan line-up, who will need to perform consistently.
Pakistan’s bowling is definitely among their strengths. The leg spin of Yasir Shah will remain a threat for England batsmen even in the ODIs. Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz are also beginning to become seasoned campaigners now. Then of course, Pakistan have the likes of Anwar Ali and Bilal Asif, who will be expected to make an impression, not to forget the likes of Malik and Hafeez, who can also chip in with their off-spin. Pakistan have an advantage for sure. What has to be seen is whether they can actually make it count.
--By A Cricket Analyst