All-new line-up presents opportunities for host players but question marks for visitors
Well, that escalated quickly. It’s only been a matter of days since the soggy denouement to England’s third and final ODI against Sri Lanka – a match that had begun amid rumours of a few fresh faces in the ranks, but had continued with a solitary change to the line-up and another win-toss-and-bowl display, as Eoin Morgan targeted a full hand of World Cup Super League points before the heavens opened to rain on his run-chase.
But there are players too for whom this is a massive opportunity to restate credentials that, for one reason or another, have been marginalised in the intervening seasons (step forward James Vince and Ben Duckett) or simply to fast-track their own standings as ones to watch for the future – Surrey’s Will Jacks being a particularly prime example. Others, such as Somerset’s Lewis Gregory, have found it hard to gain traction in their limited opportunities to date. His eight T20Is have so far offered little opportunity to show off his range as a No.7, fifth-change bowler. A 50-over outing gives far more scope for meaningful contributions across the board.
A penny for Pakistan’s thoughts amid all this chaos. They’ve been holed up in their Derby Travelodge, a familiar base-camp following last year’s Test preparations, no doubt plotting their strategies for tackling the new-ball threat of Sam Curran, Chris Woakes and David Willey, and undermining the Bairstow-Roy-Root axis at the top of England’s World Cup-winning batting order. Instead they’ll now be cobbling together some hasty plans for the likes of Phil Salt and Brydon Carse. The county streams may help them in that regard, but despite England’s undignified departure, it’s unlikely that their outgoing management forgot to leave their own scouting reports pinned to the dressing-room fridge.
In the spotlight
Pitch and conditions
Cardiff served up a dog of a pitch for the T20I against Sri Lanka last month – tacky, two-paced, with occasionally savage lift, and resulting in a match strike-rate of barely a run a ball as England laboured to hunt down a paltry target of 112. With abject weather to boot, it was not exactly the spectacle the BBC might have ordered for their first live match of the English summer. But at least the sun is expected to shine on Sophia Gardens on Thursday. The rest is in the lap of the groundstaff.
England (possible): 1 Phil Salt, 2 James Vince, 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Ben Stokes (capt), 5 Ben Duckett (wk), 6 Will Jacks, 7 Lewis Gregory, 8 Craig Overton, 9 Brydon Carse / David Payne, 10 Saqib Mahmood, 11 Matt Parkinson
Pakistan (possible): 1 Fakhar Zaman, 2 Imam-ul-Haq, 3 Babar Azam (capt), 4 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 5 Saud Shakeel, 6 Shadab Khab, 7 Faheem Ashraf, 8 Hasan Ali, 9 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Mohammad Hasnain.
Stats and trivia
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket