Upbeat England target whitewash

prv_d2226_1472893392For more than two decades, early exits from 50-over World Cups had become the norm of English cricket. In the ICC World Cup 2015, England yet again were knocked out in the group phase after they slipped to a 15-run defeat against Bangladesh in Adelaide. However, a new set of cricketers, who are unburdened by the previous results, have broken the staid mould by playing an aggressive brand of cricket.

Eoin Morgan, the present captain for the abridged versions of the game, has instilled a sense of self-belief to lift them out of the morass of defeatism. In the ongoing One-Day International (ODI) series against Pakistan, England have continued to play with a positive intent to win the five-match series 4-0. The hosts would look to again bestride Pakistan in the final game of the series at Sophia Gardens and complete a whitewash.

Among the batsmen, Joe Root, Alex Hales, Morgan, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler have all been in prime form. Hales even recorded the highest individual score by an Englishman in ODIs when he crunched a stroke-filled 171 at Trent Bridge. On the other hand, Root has glued the middle-order together by amassing a string of fifties. With Jonny Bairstow, who replaced the injured Buttler for the last game, also coming good, England would feel that they have the required batting arsenal to usurp the visitors in the dead-rubber match.

Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Chris Wood and Liam Plunkett have plucked the most wickets in the series, which indicates that the hosts have been far and away the better side. However, the seamers might have to tinker their methods for the fifth ODI as the pitch in Cardiff usually is on the slower side. With the track likely to assist the slower bowlers, the spin duo of Moeen Ali and Rashid would be hoping to add to their tally of wickets as well.

If enterprising is the byword for the way England have played in the recent past, then their opponents, Pakistan, seem to have regressed badly. When most teams target 300-plus scores, the visitors end up with modest totals of around 250. Even Pakistan’s bowling and fielding have left a lot to be desired.

Azhar Ali, with 175 runs to his name, is second on the batting chart for the tourists. However, his strike rate of 75.75 gives an inkling that the batsmen have struggled to clear the ropes on a regular basis. Only the pair of Imad Wasim and Sarfaraz Ahmed has been able to collect runs at a brisk rate. They desperately need the trio of Sami Aslam, Sharjeel Khan and Azhar to lay a solid platform for the middle-order to up the ante.

With Pakistan’s coach Micky Arthur warning that no player is assured of a place in the side, it provides an opportunity for the likes of Aslam, Mohammad Nawaz, Sharjeel, Mohammad Rizwan and Co. to stake their claim for future games.

When: England vs Pakistan, 5th ODI on September 4 at 6:30 PM IST (2:00 PM local)

Where: Sophia Gardens, Cardiff

What to expect: Keith Exton, the former head groundsman of the Glamorgan Cricket Club, tried to provide some pace and carry for the fast bowlers by using clay-rich soil – Ongar Loam. However, the track is still expected to be on the slower side. As per the weather forecast, a few showers are set to play spoilsport.

Team news

England: Buttler suffered a hamstring injury at Headingley, but is expected to be available for the final game and might replace Bairstow. Chris Jordan and David Willey perhaps would be given another chance to prove their worth. Liam Dawson, the Hampshire allrounder, is also in line to make his ODI debut.

Pakistan: The visitors made as many as four changes to their side for the fourth ODI. With Mohammad Irfan having fitness issues, Mohammad Amir probably would return to the side.

What they said

“It’s very frustrating. There were checks and balances in place. Irfan was put on standby when we selected our one-day squad, he went to the NCA and did his training. He played two 50-over games and 20-over game and was resident at the NCA for a period of a week and a half.” – Mickey Arthur on Mohammad Irfan’s lack of fitness.

Did You Know?

– England have never won an ODI series 5-0 at home. Their only such series victory came in 2001 when they whitewashed Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe.

-Moeen Ali needs 110 runs to reach 4,000 runs and three wickets to 100 scalps in List A cricket.

– Sarfraz Ahmed needs 36 more runs to go past Kamran Akmal’s record of 245 runs as the most runs by a Pakistan wicketkeeper in a bilateral series.

Squads:

Pakistan: Sami Aslam, Sharjeel Khan, Azhar Ali(c), Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed(wk), Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Nawaz, Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Amir, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Rizwan, Umar Gul

England: Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Jos Buttler(wk), Eoin Morgan(c), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood, David Willey, Chris Jordan, Liam Dawson

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