England will be looking to complete a clean sweep of Pakistan when the teams meet in the final ODI at Cardiff on Sunday. As the 4-0 scorecard aptly demonstrates, England have been completely dominant in the series. In the last match, they found themselves in a spot of trouble at 72 for 4 chasing a target of just under 250, but recovered thanks to a steadying partnership Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes, whose half centuries, took England home with ease in the end. Moeen Ali also chipped in with an unbeaten 45 to ensure there were no hiccups towards the end.
Pakistan’s poor batting has clearly been the difference between the two teams. They have failed to get close to 300 in any of the matches. The top order has been hugely disappointing. Mohammad Hafeez failed to get many runs when he fit, and after he was ruled his, replacements too have failed. Sami Aslam has been tried at the top of the order, but just hasn’t been able to make an impression. He will get a chance to make amends in the final match. The other opener Sharjeel Khan has got one good knock, but has failed to be consistent.
It is not as if the visitors haven’t competed at all. In fact, Azhar Ali has led from the front with a couple of 80s. He has come back well from the recent slump. On the other hand, Sarfraz Ahmed has been constantly among the runs. He even has a century to his name in the series, which unfortunately was in a losing cause. Lower down the order, Imad Wasim has a couple of hard-fought fifties, which has enabled Pakistan to recover from early losses. Better, however, will be expected from the likes of Shoaib Malik and Babar Azam.
England have been on a different level altogether in the series. Almost everyone has contributed with the bat. Alex Hales and Joe Root have flourished with the bat while Jos Buttler has continued to play stunning knocks, which we have come to expect from him. When Buttler was unfit for the previous match, Bairstow chipped in and came up with a match-defining innings. Further, Stokes also got into the act with a 60-plus score in the previous game. With not much pressure of scoring, skipper Eoin Morgan has also flourished, playing some whirlwind knocks in the middle order.
In the bowling department as well, England have done very well to keep Pakistan under check. Mark Wood, returning from injury, has been successful in ramping up his pace, and troubling the Pakistan batsmen. Chris Woakes too has continued to make an impression, which began with his great showing in the Test matches. Liam Plunkett has been quick, and has been among the wickets as well. In the first half of the series, Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali did not have a great time, but in the last match both tasted success. So, England really have most things going their way at present.
--By A Cricket Analyst