The first part of England’s trip to the UAE has come to an end, and it was Pakistan who clinched the Test series to become the second best team in the world in the longest format. Before the tour began, Pakistan were being touted as hot favourites to beat the visitors in Tests as the home side hadn’t lost a home series for five years under Misbahul Haq’s captaincy.
Keeping in view Pakistan’s Test performances in the desert, it was always on the cards that the hosts would be too hot to handle, and that England would face a stern test against them. However, come the ODIs, the predictions are not exactly the same, and many believe it will be Pakistan who will find it hard to beat England.
But amid all the claims and counter claims of how England will dominate the shorter format, there are many reasons to believe that Pakistan should be able to clinch the series.
If we compare the 2012 series with 2015, the major difference is the team selection.
In the current ODI squad, England have retained six players who took at least some part in the Test series. Taylor played only one match in the series of three, whereas, Buttler was dropped after consecutive poor display with the bat after a couple of matches.
In 2012, England’s success in the ODIs was mainly due to four players. In batting, Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen contributed 61.8 % of the total runs scored by the English team in the series. If Ravi Bopara, the third-best scorer, is included then the trio scored 72.8% of the total runs for England.
In the current team, it’s hard to find anyone other than Joe Root, who encompasses all of what Cook, KP and Bopara had back then. England’s top-three batsmen in 2012; Trott (46), Pietersen (45.5) and Cook (38.5) had considerable averages in Asia, whereas, Bopara had an average of 27 but played as an all-rounder. However, in the current squad, only Root has an average of 51 against spin but he also has played only one series in the Asian conditions (against Sri Lanka), whereas other players have seemed to find it hard on slow pitches and some of them are yet to feature on these turning tracks.
Meanwhile, only two players who were part of the 2012 squad will be featuring against Pakistan this time around — Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan. Buttler averages 26.5 in eight innings in Asia, with only one half-century. Morgan averages less than 20 in his last 16 innings in the continent, with only one half-century to his name as well. Taylor is good against spin and he has proved that with two scores of fifty in four innings in Asia but this will be a different ball game for him altogether.
In bowling, Steven Finn and Greame Swann were ruthless against Pakistan. Both are not available this time around and the new breed of bowlers hasn’t promised anything much to the English team as of now. England will be relying mostly on Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Reece Topley and the spin duo of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid.
Pakistan, meanwhile, look a far more settled side than they were in 2012. Pakistan team management, three years earlier, experimented a bit too much. For instance, in the first ODI, Pakistan played with Wahab Riaz and Umar Gul as the fast-bowling options, but in the second match, Wahab was replaced by Cheema.
Umar Akmal kept wickets in the first two ODIs and Adnan Akmal did so in the next two. Imran Farhat opened in the first three ODIs, but was dropped in the fourth and replaced with Azhar, while Shafiq was reinstated as one-down.
Umar Akmal batted at number six in the first three matches, and was promoted to bat at number four in the last. In the last match, Pakistan went in with only one seamer, with all three Wahab, Gul and Cheema out as Abdur Rehman opened the bowling with Junaid Khan.
Back then there was no clarity in the team plan and the results were horrible in the end. However, in recent times, Pakistan’s team management has learned the value of consistency, and this team is more settled; with players knowing exactly what their role is in the team.
Cricket is a funny game and one cannot predict what’s going to happen the other morning. However, Pakistan this time seems to be the clear-cut favourites; not because they have already won the Test series, but because of the kind of talent they possess.
The article originally appeared on The Express Tribune.