With the four-match one-day series tied 1-1, Pakistan and England would be keen to win the third match at Sharjah, which would at least ensure that they cannot lose the series from here. Pakistan won the first match rather comprehensively while England hit back to claim the second ODI at Abu Dhabi. The results were further proof of Pakistan’s continuing inconsistency in the one-day format. After taking the first match by six wickets, a batting collapse in the second meant Pakistan gave away the lead of 1-0 they had gained. At the same time, England must be pleased with their fightback.
Pakistan have been dealt with a big blow as their leg spinner Yasir Shah is most likely to miss the key match owing to a knee injury that he picked up during a practice session prior to the game. Although Yasir wasn’t standout in the previous game, he remains a dangerous bowler for the opposition. Without him, Pakistan’s bowling attack could be thrown off balance. Of course, Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz are very good pace bowlers in their own right. But, when it comes to spin bowling, Yasir is by far their best choice.
While the hosts should be disappointed with their batting effort in the last match, they would like to believe that the collapse was a one-off. Mohammad Hafeez is in excellent form, and he would like to get back among the runs following the duck at Abu Dhabi on Friday. They, however, must be careful with their batting order. There has been unnecessary chopping and changing. Babar Azam opened the innings, and the move was unsuccessful. Runs would be expected from skipper Azhar Ali and Shoaib Malik as well. Sarfraz Ahmed’s form will please them.
England, on the other hand, would be elated with the return to form of Alex Hales. While he has succeeded in T20s, Hales’ ODI career has been disappointing so far. At Abu Dhabi, he finally showed glimpses of his capability, with a hundred that set up the series-levelling victory for England. Hales, apart, Jason Ray and Joe Root also hit half-centuries for the visitors in the second match. Skipper Eoin Morgan is in good form, but the struggles of Jos Buttler would worry them. He was promoted in the last game, but still failed to get a decent score against his name.
After batting well, England also bowled well on Friday. David Willey was excellent at the start of the innings, claiming crucial wickets. Chris Woakes also bowled well to finish with four wickets, although he was lucky as some of Pakistan’s batsmen played ungainly strokes to get out. Reece Topley and Adil Rashid were also economical. The biggest quandary for them would be what to do with Moeen Ali. He is neither contributing with the bat or the ball. But, having invested so much in the all-rounder, can England afford to look to someone in such a crucial match?
--By A Cricket Analyst