Ben Stokes back with the ball as England look to seal Pakistan series
England have the chance to win the ODI series and insure against any possibility of losing at Trent Bridge on Tuesday.
It is a floodlit match and therefore Eoin Morgan may be tempted to bat first if he wins the toss for the first time this series, even though England when they have cantered past their target when batting second without having to break sweat or chew nails. On the evidence to date the punters at Trent Bridge will welcome England batting first in the hope of a bit of swashbuckling from the batsmen. There has not been much of that so far.
Pakistan have struggled to set targets: neither nor was sufficiently challenging. As a result the entertainment value has not been much greater than a second repeat of Emmerdale. One-day cricket requires uncertainty about the outcome to be compelling.
The England camp cannot be concerned about the mundane nature of the two games. They have done their job with great efficiency and their pace bowlers have imposed themselves on a flaky Pakistan line-up. It has been a rare sight to witness two Englishmen propelling the ball in excess of 90mph, which has and . Meanwhile, , has not been far behind them in pace while a little ahead in terms of accuracy.
England are likely to keep this trio together at least until the series is won, but in Nottingham they can be augmented by . It was both unsurprising and endearing to hear how Stokes reacted to playing as a specialist batsman in the first two games. “It was so boring in the field,” he declared. Temperamentally Stokes is a natural all-rounder and Morgan will have to be at his most obstinate to prevent him from grabbing the ball and marking out his run.
Nor is there likely to be any change in England’s batting line-up. There is always one man in any team under pressure after a barren spell. Recently, that man has been Morgan – indeed a run drought seems to be part and parcel of accepting the one-day captaincy, but his workmanlike 68 at Lord’s means the mantel of the overdue batsman has now passed to Alex Hales.
There have been signs of unease with the opener in the second half of the summer. The most obvious was him striding into the .
Recently, there has been a dearth of runs whatever the colour of the ball heading in his direction – though his stock is much higher in white-ball cricket. His observation that pulling out of the Bangladesh tour would risk sacrificing his Test place also hints that his poor form is preying on his mind. Hales could do with some runs on his home ground.
However, these are pinpricks beside the problems facing a Pakistan side currently ranked No9 in the world. Imad Wasim, who must have the chance of being the first Pakistan cricketer nurtured in Wales – he was born in Swansea – is suitably exasperated: “With the talent we’ve got I don’t think it’s a No9 team. I believe we can come back”. Those outside the Pakistan camp are not so sure.