T20: England vs Pakistan
After the exciting test series between these nations, complete with record-breaking achievements and rain of biblical proportions, it’s off to Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester we go for T20 cricket.
And there’s plenty to be excited about – not least the unpredictability of the shortest form of the game.
England may have edged a 1-0 test victory over the tourists but neither groups of players have played much in 2020 which makes this that bit harder to predict.
It just ain’t summer without English cricket and I expect this contest to again show how much we’ve missed it – in all its forms!
After two test series’ against West Indies and Pakistan, along with a three-match ODI series with Ireland, England have certainly been busier of late, yet this return to T20 action will be their first matches in this format since their tour of South Africa in February.
Similar to that ODI series against Ireland, England will not involve any of their test stars so will be without Joe Root, Jofra Archer and Jos Buttler, while Ben Stokes remains unavailable due to personal reasons.
The fact they have the depth to have separate red and white ball squads to negotiate the busy schedule is an advantage. After losing dramatically to Ireland last time out, though, they will be keen to hit the ground running in the T20 format.
A blow for the hosts is the absence of opener Jason Roy who will miss the Vitality series after sustaining a left side strain.
The Surrey batsman sustained the injury a few days ago during training and had a scan yesterday.
It’s not so long ago that Pakistan were the best T20 team in the world. Their form may have dropped off over the past year or so, with just one win in 10 matches, but they are still a force.
Like England, they too are likely to be slightly out of practice with just two matches so far this calendar year, both coming successfully over Bangladesh.
Babar Azam is likely to be the only player (along with Mohammad Rizwan if selected ahead of Sarfaraz Ahmed) from the test team that will feature and he will skipper the side once again and should be able to count on veterans Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik to support him.
The bowling attack is particularly impressive with Haris Rauf and Mohammad Hasnain, alongside Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim, vital to their hopes of success.
It should be exciting. We know Twenty 20 highlights are a regular occurrence and that T20 cricket can provide drama of the highest level and there’s no reason why this will be any different.
The nations first met in T20 cricket in 2006 when Pakistan won by five wickets in Bristol.
In fact, it wasn’t until three years later that England enjoyed their first outright series victory in the ICC World T20 in the West Indies.
Their most recent match, last year, saw England emerge victorious by seven wickets in Cardiff.
Overall, England have won 10 of their 14 T20 clashes
Many of England’s players got playing time in the ODI series against Ireland which should stand them well coming into this opening game. While Pakistan cannot be discounted, the time at the crease for England’s batsmen should make the difference here and I expect skipper Eoin Morgan, Bairstow and company can lead them to victory.
The SBOTOP T20 betting odds favour England and they are priced Asian Handicap 0.00 @ 1.55, with Pakistan 0.00 @ 2.35.
There’s also interesting odds for the leading bowlers and batsmen.
For England, you can get odds of @ 2.66 on Bairstow, @ 3.45 on Tom Banton, @ 3.65 on David Malan and @ 3.85 on Liam Livingstone.
For Pakistan, how about @ 2.52 on Azam, @ 4.40 on Malik, @ 4.80 on Zaman and @ 5.00 with Hafeez.
Adil Rashid and Chris Jordan – both @ 3.85. – are tipped as England’s top bowler, with Mohammad Amir @ 3.75 and Khan @ 4.20 the most fancied for Pakistan.
The truth is this England side is unlikely to bear much resemblance to the one Morgan expects to lead out in the postponed T20 World Cup, which hopefully will take place next year.
With England currently ranked as the second best T20 side in the world it comes as little surprise the hosts will be looking to make a statement against fourth-ranked Pakistan with next year’s World Cup on the horizon.
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.
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