England and Pakistan prepare to do battle in the first of three one-day internationals on Thursday, but there has already been drama before the first ball in Cardiff after the hosts were forced to pick a brand new squad that now has Ben Stokes as captain.
After beating Sri Lanka 2-0 in a three-match ODI series, that same England squad, which includes the likes of Eoin Morgan, Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow, were preparing for the upcoming 50-over games against Pakistan.
However, the England camp reported seven positive coronavirus cases, forcing the ECB to name a completely different squad as the original team have gone into a period of isolation.
Durham all-rounder Ben Stokes, who has recently recovered from a fractured finger, will make an earlier than expected return to the international fold after being named captain of a squad that has nine uncapped players at ODI level in it.
While England’s preparations have been somewhat thrown into chaos, it has not been an easy time for Pakistan, who have been in managed isolation since arriving on June 25 but have been training.
The Men in Green have also played a couple of intra-squad games in that time but inclement weather has meant preparation hasn’t been ideal and neither side look like they are in peak form ahead of Thursday’s opener in Cardiff.
Difficult to Pick a Winner
With so much uncertainty surrounding England’s starting XI, it is maybe no surprise to see the hosts the slight outsiders at
20/21, with Pakistan’s settled squad the marginal
10/13 favourites to claim the spoils.
There is no denying the quality in the Three Lions’ squad, they still boast the likes of Stokes, Dawid Malan and James Vince, but the question is whether the uncapped players can replicate their club form onto the international stage.
Test batsmen Zak Crawley and Dan Lawrence have earned their stripes in the longest format of the game, but do they have the ability to switch their focus over to limited-overs cricket and impress? That remains to be seen.
Salt Provides the Right Seasoning
Sussex opening batsman Phil Salt, one of the nine uncapped players in the squad, could be one to watch if given the opportunity in the first ODI. The 24-year-old has played 16 List A matches for Sussex, scoring 494 runs at an average of 32.93.
Salt also has experience of playing in the Big Bash with the Adelaide Strikers in the 2019/20 event, amassing 361 to finish as the franchise’s fourth-highest run-scorer in the tournament.
7/2, the opening batsman could be worth a punt to be England’s top batsman.
Ben Duckett is also worthy of note in this market at
5/1. He has been a star performer for Nottinghamshire, leading them to T20 Blast glory in 2020, and he made knocks of 60 and 63 in his three ODI appearances.
Pakistan Dangerous in Attack
Although England have talented batting options, Pakistan have a bowling attack in great form right now and it is no surprise to see Shaheen Shah Afridi
11/4 to be his country’s top bowler in the Cardiff opener.
The 21-year-old has taken 51 ODI wickets and he arrives on the back of a successful season in the 2021 Pakistan Super League, where he finished as the third-highest wicket-taker with 16 scalps.
Hasan Ali is another that makes appeal in the top wicket-taker market at
3/1. The 27-year-old has been Pakistan’s best fast bowler since the start of the year and he has 83 ODI wickets in his career.
Carse Provides X Factor
Looking at England’s bowling options and Durham seamer Brydon Carse looks like he could be a real handful for the Pakistan batsman.
The 25-year-old, born in South Africa, has regular bowling speeds of 90mph and he had been attracting the attention of the selection prior to the Covid outbreak.
Carse has also worked well in the bowling department with Stokes at Durham, another nod to him being handed a debut, and he looks good value at
4/1 to top England’s bowling charts.
*All odds correct at time of writing