It was an unexpected turn of events. Seven members of England’s victorious squad against Sri Lanka returned positive Covid tests and the selectors were forced to announce a new squad to face Pakistan. The dynamics have changed upside down and Pakistan now possess their best chance to win their first bilateral ODI series in England since 1974.
The series kicks off in Cardiff with the first of the three-match ODI series on Thursday (July 8). The series opener can often be confusing from the fantasy point of view but we present some helpful tips for you to make the most efficient team.
Ground Details and Team Combination
Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens last hosted ODI cricket during the 2019 World Cup. The venue hosted four games where 1,548 runs were scored at an economy of 5.6. While the economy is at par in ODI cricket in England since 2019, an average of 27.2, the worst by an ODI venue in England in this time frame indicates a more bowling friendly track.
Although, Pakistan were flat with the ball the last time they toured England - a bowling average of 61.9 on their 2019 tour - they would be confident on taking on an inexperienced English batting line-up. Also, leg-spinners bagged seven of the 15 wickets picked by spin in those four games and only one went to a left-arm orthodox spinner.
Hence, we don’t expect a high-scoring match and suggest a bowling heavy side alongside the inclusion of Shadab Khan, the Pakistan leg-spinner. Shadab will encounter a lot of left-handers in the England batting line-up but the leg-spinner holds an edge over the southpaws - a bowling average of 26.3 against left-handers in comparison to 34.6 against right-handers.
While you could go for the above team, you also have the option of choosing your own team from Cricket.com’s Fantasy Research Centre. Based on algorithms, we have come up with one team.
Babar Azam enjoys batting in England. He averages 50.3 in the 23 ODIs he has played in England alongside striking at 88.2. He has two hundreds and five fifties. Babar struggled for fluency during the second leg of PSL 2021 in Abu Dhabi but ODI is his bread and butter format. The conditions of England and a depleted English bowling attack will pose the perfect opportunity for the Pakistan skipper to dictate terms with the bat.
Our Criclytics Players Projection projects Azam could score 55-83 runs in this match
Shaheen Shah Afridi is the acclaimed wicket-taker in Pakistan’s line-up. He has 51 wickets in 25 ODIs since his debut in September, 2018 and a wickets-per-match ratio in excess of two says a lot about his ability. Since 2019, his bowling strike-rate of 25.5 balls per wicket is the best amongst the 17 bowlers who have picked 10 wickets or more in the first 10 overs. The left-arm pacer must be itching to further better those numbers with both Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy unavailable to open for England.
Our Criclytics Players Projection projects Afridi could pick 0-1 wickets in this match
Ben Stokes is the heart and soul of this England team, be it as a leader, as a batsman or as a bowler. Away from international cricket since March, he will return to the England dressing room, unexpectedly as the captain. He has been amongst both wickets and a handful of runs in the T20 Blast matches he played in the lead up to his return to international. In the absence of the star players in both departments, Stokes would be keen to step up as an all-rounder.
Our Criclytics Players Projection projects Stokes could score 26-38 runs and pick 0-1 wickets in this match
David Payne is the unheard name which can make the difference for you in this contest. Available as an all-rounder, he is a veteran in county circuit with over 300 wickets in first-class cricket and more than 230 scalps in the white-ball formats. A left-arm pacer, we expect him to be used as David Willy’s replacement in the squad.
Our Criclytics Players Projection projects Payne could pick 0-1 wickets in this match