It’s a week short of two years since England played an ODI at Lord’s, and barring a 500-plays-500 tie, it’s hard to see how Saturday will match their last outing there. The euphoria on London’s streets in the past two weeks as England’s footballers edge closer and closer to European Championship glory has rarely been matched in terms of scale, but the scene in Trafalgar Square on July 14, 2019 was as close as another sport has come to replicating it in recent memory – limbs flying and beer thrown when Jos Buttler ran Martin Guptill out three miles away as England won their first 50-over World Cup.
Needless to say, Saturday’s cast will be much-changed from the group that lifted the trophy, with only two of the 15 World Cup winners involved in both squads. In the aftermath of that final, the idea of Ben Stokes captaining England in an ODI in 2021 would have involved Eoin Morgan retiring prematurely and an injury to Buttler as a bare minimum, but these are unprecedented circumstances. Stokes’ involvement in Thursday’s thrashing at Cardiff was minimal, bowling a single over and being unused as a batter, but he can expect a greater role on Saturday.
The other survivor is James Vince, whose international career looked as good as over until sporadic namechecks from Morgan while he was scoring freely in the BBL over the winter and this week’s last-minute recall. Vince was on the field as a sub fielder for Mark Wood during the Super Over two years ago, but one intervention he made in the final is little-known. With two required off the last ball, Vince came out as 12th man with a towel and a drink. “‘I think we win if we get a single,’ Vincey told me,” Stokes recalled in his book On Fire – mercifully, he checked the details with Marais Erasmus, rather than clipping a single into the leg side and celebrating with open arms on reaching the non-striker’s end only to find out there was still work to do.
Much as Lord’s holds fond memories for Stokes and Vince, England have not been hugely successful there over the last six years. Since the start of the 2015-19 World Cup cycle, Lord’s is the only home ground where they have lost as many games as they have won, including a heavy defeat to Australia in the tournament itself. In his book Hitting Against The Spin, England’s white-ball analyst Nathan Leamon puts this down to two things: there has been more lateral movement for seamers at Lord’s than any other ground in ODIs, and overall scoring rates have been the slowest of any venues. Neither of those suits their batting-heavy strategy.
Pakistan, by contrast, have won four of their last five ODIs at Lord’s, including victories against South Africa and Bangladesh in the 2019 World Cup. They will have a returning home crowd to content with – an English cricket ground will be at 100% capacity for the first time since 2019 – but a significant proportion will be made up of the Pakistani diaspora from around the UK.
There is plenty to be said for Shahid Afridi’s advice to Pakistan this week – “We should forget this match as soon as possible!” he tweeted – given their recent record in 50-over cricket. They had lost one (two including a Super Over against Zimbabwe) of their last dozen ODIs heading into this series, and while a heavy defeat against a second-string side was humbling, it seems unlikely that Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam will fail to score a run between them for the second game in a row. England have won four consecutive tosses in their home ODIs this summer – if their luck finally runs out, Pakistan will be keen to bowl first under dark skies.
England WWWLW (Last five completed games, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Cardiff’s short straight boundaries are unforgiving for spinners, not least when bowling from the River Taff End when the risk of being chipped into the drink is all too real. As a result, Matt Parkinson‘s returns – 2 for 28 from seven overs – in the first ODI were pleasing for England. That said, while conditions were not conducive to legspin, the game situation meant he was not put under pressure by any recognised batters, and Saturday will probably be a bigger test. Discussion around Parkinson revolves around his pace (or lack thereof) and his struggles to left-handers, given his googly is still a work in progress; a strong series against a good batting line-up would help him answer both questions.
Babar Azam‘s superlative record in England – 1006 ODI runs at 47.90 in 24 innings – was dented by his second-ball duck on Thursday, playing away from his body as he searched for bat on ball against the fiery Saqib Mahmood, but it is rare for him to fail twice in a row. His three ODI innings at Lord’s to date have brought scores of 30, 69 and 96, and he will be keen to consolidate his position as the ICC’s No. 1-ranked batter in the format, too.
Pitch and conditions
Saturday’s forecast for NW8 is not ideal, with dark clouds and persistent rain due throughout the morning, but the suggestion is that it should clear up in time for long enough to avoid a no-result. Lord’s has been relatively high-scoring in this year’s T20 Blast, with the three teams batting first posting 223, 183 and 166, but with the current batch of white balls swinging for prolonged periods at the start of an innings, conditions are likely to suit seamers early on.
It would be harsh for England to discard any of the side that routed Pakistan so comprehensively in Cardiff, though with three matches scheduled in six days, they may opt to give one of the seamers a rest, with Tom Helm, Jake Ball and David Payne the candidates to come in. With the bat, they will surely want to give Ben Duckett an opportunity at some stage in the series, but John Simpson can expect to keep the gloves on his home ground.
England (possible): 1 Phil Salt, 2 Dawid Malan, 3 Zak Crawley, 4 James Vince, 5 Ben Stokes (capt), 6 John Simpson (wk), 7 Lewis Gregory, 8 Craig Overton/Jake Ball, 9 Brydon Carse/Tom Helm, 10 Saqib Mahmood, 11 Matt Parkinson
Pakistan were blown away so quickly that it was difficult to evaluate any individual performers on Thursday, and they are likely to stick with the same core and balance. Debutant Saud Shakeel was one of Mahmood’s four victims and it would be harsh to dispense with him after a single game, while the recalled Sohaib Maqsood showed a glimpse of his power-hitting when flogging Carse over cover for six. Haris Rauf bowled with good pace but was relatively expensive, and Mohammad Hasnain is waiting in the wings for an opportunity.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Fakhar Zaman, 2 Imam-ul-Haq, 3 Babar Azam (capt), 4 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 5 Saud Shakeel, 6 Sohaib Maqsood, 7 Shadab Khan, 8 Faheem Ashraf, 9 Hasan Ali, 10 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 11 Haris Rauf/Mohammad Hasnain.
Stats and trivia
Ben Stokes will become the 25th England player to reach 100 caps in men’s ODIs, drawing level with Nick Knight. Eoin Morgan, the man he is standing in for, has the most, with 223 (and a further 23 for Ireland).
Fakhar Zaman is the third-highest run-scorer in men’s ODIs this calendar year, with 349 runs in four innings. Mushfiqur Rahim (407 in nine) and Paul Stirling (546 in eight) are the two men ahead of him.
Dawid Malan has made two fifties in his first four ODIs. If he can continue his run-scoring form, he is in with a chance of becoming the second England player to score an international hundred in all three formats, after Heather Knight.
A comfortable win would see Pakistan leapfrog Australia and Bangladesh (on net run-rate) to go second in the World Cup Super League table.
Zak Crawley has scored 378 runs in three innings against Pakistan in all formats, compared to 384 runs in 22 innings against all other international opponents.
“Within sport we’re slightly in a different place to the public and having to be pretty careful with regards to Covid and not picking it up. It is slightly strange being stuffed in your hotel rooms when a lot of people are roaming around free but equally, it allows us to play in front of full houses and have this opportunity.”
Lewis Gregory is happy to spend some hours on his own in order to play in front of a capacity crowd.
“It wasn’t a shocker but one bad day. Every day isn’t the same so I have a full confidence and belief on my boys and I will still tell them not to worry. There are ups and downs but you have to learn quickly from your mistakes. We will try our best to bounce back and not repeat our mistakes.”
Babar Azam wants to see evidence of improvement from Thursday’s defeat.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98