After two somewhat unexpected England victories in the opening games of the series, the third game offers the away side the opportunity to wrap up a rare series victory away from the rank seamers so unsportingly prepared back in Blighty. For Pakistan it’s the last chance for redemption after two poor batting performances.
The first two games have thrown up a number of issues for Pakistan. The batting has been poor, blown away in the first match and then rather self-destructing in the second, while the bowling, so good in the Tests, has been somewhat mixed. Saeed Ajmal has bowled well but the seamers have been disappointing, notably Umar Gul who is wicketless so far and has gone at more than a run a ball.
The real problem for Pakistan is the balance of the side, which seems to be all wrong at the moment. Having Umar Akmal as wicketkeeper has created more problems than it solved, notably the issue of catches regularly being put down behind the stumps, while Shahid Afridi is clearly too high at number seven. Shoaib Malik might well come in somewhere to try and hold things together, although trying to predict where he’ll bat is something of a challenge – he’s batted everywhere from one to ten in the past. There could also be a change of wicketkeeper, from the cack-handed Akmal to the less cack-handed one, but that would result in further rejigging of the batting order. In summary, we haven’t got a bloody clue what Pakistan are going to do.
England’s two wins have both been built around solid opening partnerships followed by the Cook/Bopara combo in full effect. The rest of the batsmen have still found the going difficult, notably Pietersen, Morgan and Kieswetter, all of whom have struggled to get the ball off the square. And yet it seems unlikely that Jos Buttler or Jonny Bairstow will get a chance with the experiment with Pietersen opening set to continue. So far it can hardly be called a roaring success.
Some 16 days after passing a fitness test back in the UK, Tim Bresnan may finally be available to do something other than messing about on Twitter. Jimmy Anderson would be the man to step aside if Bresnan was to return, a tad harsh given that he’s bowled pretty well so far. Other than that, England will most likely rely on a very similar side and Alastair Cook’s phenomenal tossing skills.
England to win the toss, bat first and make around 260, led by a hundred from Alastair Cook and a Ravi Bopara half-century. Eoin Morgan to continue to frustrate. In reply, Pakistan to fall short, thanks to an excellent spell from Steve Finn (4/34). Shahid Afridi to be out slogging. The Noel Edmonds/Mr Blobby picture to get another outing for the review.