England v Pakistan
Friday 16 July 00.30
TV: live on BT Sport
England stars back
Another series, another squad change. England’s quarantined crew are available again meaning the bulk of the squad called-up late from the county game to take on Pakistan, and take them down, return to the shires.
But the top performers in that series have been picked again. Saqib Mahmood could well slot straight into the starting XI considering his performances, not to mention how well he did in the PSL. Lewis Gregory should be given a chance as all-rounder, particularly with Ben Stokes not involved.
Matt Parkinson is another who needs consistent game time. In the UAE for the T20 World Cup two specialist spinners may be required so England could start planning early. Eoin Morgan returns to skipper the XI, Jos Buttler opens the batting. There is no room for James Vince. Chris Jordan is fit again.
Probable XI Roy, Buttler, Malan, Bairstow, Morgan, Moeen, Gregory, Willey, Jordan, Rashid, Mahmood
Pakistan happier in T20
Pakistan should feel embarrassed by the 3-0 whitewash against a third- or fourth-choice England team in the ODI series. When they were in charge at the break of the final game, the one discipline which they are consistent in let them down. They failed to defend 331.
The format change could help them, though, and they can not claim to be undercooked. T20 specialists will bolster their squad. Mohammad Hafeez returns while tyro pacer Muhammad Hasnain is a great watch at full tilt. The front three in the batting is settled while Sohaib Maqsood’s brilliant PSL performance gives him the chance to nail down the vacant No 5 slot.
They do have a slight issue with balance because of a lack of lower-order power. If they can stomach five bowlers with Hafeez available in an emergency, they could pick powerhouse Azam Khan who strikes at 153. They may wait until the end of the series, though with Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz considered useful all-rounders. Mystery spinner Usman Qadir is another option.
Possible XI Babar, Rizwan, Fakhar, Hafeez, Sohaib, Shadab, Hasan, Faheem, Imad, Afridi, Hasnain
Trent Bridge has a reputation as a road. But it’s not the most reliable for big runs, or even slightly-above-par runs. All the way back to the 2019 season, backing 160 or more in first innings was a winner eight times out of 16. It should be pushing 60% for us to be confident about bowlers taking consistent tap.
There have been six games in the Blast this summer but only two have not been rain-affected. The first-innings scores where 20 overs were completed produced scores of 166 and 211, the latter was not defended. Derbyshire made 150 in 15 overs.
Given Pakistan’s performance with the bat (last game aside) in the ODI series, you might want to avoid any wager on the market if they bat first. England have more faith in the market. But par for them will probably be pitched from 175. Sportsbook go 10/3 both teams score 180 and 10/11 they both score 160.
Take risk on a chase
England are as short as 1.548/15 with Pakistan 2.809/5. That’s a mighty short price about the home team.
Often we talk about T20 sides priced at 1.608/13 requiring a chunk of evidence that they are a crack unit. But when a team slips below that mark they should be sweeping everyone aside. Are England that team?
Well, they have won 20 of their last 28 matches (last three years). And eight of their last 12 at home. But here’s the rub – one of those defeats came against Pakistan.
One suspects that the prices are, in fact, based on what happened in the ODI series. But Pakistan are a much more dangerous unit in the shorter format and have nothing like the amount of weaknesses that the odds suggest.
Chasing may well be their favoured option given recent performances and if the 2.809/5 holds post-toss – as it should – we’re more than happy to risk them.
Babar Azam has been price-boosted from 9/4 to 13/5 for top Pakistan bat after his fantastic century in the last ODI. Babar has a career win rate on the market of an astonishing 38%. Faheem Ashraf and Hasan Ali have big appeal at 50/1 and 60/1 respectively.
Jos Buttler has been boosted to 10/3 for top England bat. Mr Reliable, Dawid Malan, is 7/2.
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