PAKISTAN TOUR OF ENGLAND, 2019
England have already sealed the series 3-0, with one game washed out. © AFP
“I just want it to start,” answered Ben Stokes when asked about what lies ahead for him and English cricket this summer.
A World Cup and an Ashes present opportunities for England to right two wrongs. They have never won a 50-over ICC tournament and are currently not in possession of the urn. For Stokes, the personal motivation is well documented.
The events of Bristol 2017 cost him his place on the 2017/18 Ashes. And, a couple of years before that expensive night out, a younger, free-er-wheeling Stokes was omitted from the 2015 World Cup squad after a dire run of form. Of course, it was not a bad tournament to miss. But here are two high profile examples of when one of England’s most talented cricketers was simply a spectator.
“I can’t remember when I was talking about it,” continued Stokes. “It might have been last night – how lucky we are to be involved in a home World Cup and a home Ashes series in the same summer.” But as for the motivation for May 30 and that first World Cup match against South Africa to arrive as quickly as possible, well, the allrounder is thinking less about ticking a couple of boxes.
“It’s very very exciting to think about and I just want it to start because of having to answer to many questions about it! Not being rude.”
He wasn’t, at all. But while Stokes’ misdemeanours will continue to be a footnote on his career, success this summer will go some way in ensuring it is an illustrious one. Friday’s encounter at Nottingham was another healthy step towards this.
Victory to seal the series came with a degree of toil. England were coasting to their target of 341 before a collapse to 216 for 5 put the game in the balance. But up stepped Stokes to score a measured 71 to see his side home and find form after a testing couple of months.
“As everyone knows through a series we generally seem to have a stinker somewhere,” said Stokes. “That looked like it could have been that game for us. The confidence we’ll take from losing a quick three wickets and then finishing the job off will stand us in great stead. We bat so deep that we can take the games deeper.”
It goes without saying that victory on Sunday in the final ODI is their sole aim. But as the last competitive fixture before the World Cup, there are till a few I’s to dot and T’s to cross. Expect some more rotation.
“We wanted to make sure that our lot’s focus was on the series and not be thinking about the World Cup,” said Stokes. “We’d love to take the series 4-0, but whatever happens, after Headingley it’s a clean slate and we need to concentrate on the World Cup.”
As for Sarfraz Ahmed, bowling and fielding have been areas of concern. Totals of 361-7, 359-4 and 341-7 suggests the batting is in pretty good order. It’s worth remembering, even though all three totals were chased down, England are the best when it comes to making sizeable totals look small fry. That, too, cuts the bowling a bit of slack.
However, Pakistan’s fielding has been really quite a disgrace. Not only have many key catches been dropped – for example, Jason Roy was shelled on 25 and went on to get 114 – but the number of runs leaked through lacklustre ground-fielding relieved England of a lot of pressure throughout the back end of their chase.
They will continue to work hard at it and it will be interesting to see what Sunday brings. Pakistan support in the stands has been relatively poor considering the number of ex-pats in the UK. Factors such as games on weekdays and Ramadan will play a part. Leeds, though, with its strong British Asian representation should be out in force and could lift the visitors for one last push before the World Cup.
When: Sunday, May 19, 2019, 1PM local
Where: Headingley, Leeds
What to expect: Runs come quickly at Headingley when the white ball is used and so you’d be right to expect more of the same from both sides. There is a chance England might switch things around if they win the toss and try to defend a total after batting second throughout the series. There is a chance of rain which suggests overhead conditions may bring the bowlers into it which is long overdue.
England:Jason Roy’s late night and sickly daughter may mean he is allowed to return home with his family to rest up ahead of next week’s warm-up matches. Stokes, who is nursing a sore elbow, is also likely to sit out. Mark Wood played his first match of the summer on Friday and perhaps won’t be risked for another load of 10 overs so soon. Then again, that may be overly cautious given there is a couple of weeks before the first World Cup match.
Possible XI: James Vince, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Joe Denly, Liam Plnunkett, Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer/David Willey, Chris Woakes
Pakistan:The good news is that Imam-ul-Haq suffered just bruising rather than a fracture to his elbow when struck by Mark Wood. He returned at the end of the innings and was ineffectual, but the fact he was able to go back out to the middle allayed fears he might have to miss the start of the tournament. Abid Ali is likely to come in as a precautionary measure. Meanwhile, Mohammad Amir, who was ruled out of the previous ODIs with chickenpox, remains unavailable.
Possible XI: Abid Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfaraz Ahmed (c/wk), Mohammad Hafeez, Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Hasnain, Junaid Khan