ODI #1 – Duel In The Desert…. Pakistan v England

Obsession alert. I’m surprised they didn’t chop the picture to erase him from the back right of the team photo.

Easy how you forget, isn’t it?

OK, enough of that and onto the upcoming series. A spectacular Best of 4 (I mean, really, you can’t poke fun at that, can you?) series to be played in front of better crowds and day night cricket. The first game is tomorrow in Abu Dhabi. England’s line-up is a matter for speculation, especially as the key cog in the middle order, Ben Stokes, who bowls of course, is out with injury. The selectors have resisted the temptation to call up Ravi Bopara, and the early indications that the opening pair of Hales and Roy will keep their spots, with Moeen coming in down the order after Taylor, Root and Morgan. The fear here is that if Buttler is six, we have the plain five bowlers, and Root, who has not bowled much recently (with the guess being the back is a bit more worrisome than we thought).

Pakistan are looking to the future, with Azhar Ali leading the team but also Younus Khan recalled. Interesting messages! Wahab Riaz will be the danger man up front, the giant Mohammad Irfan will desperately sought to be in the same frame as James Taylor, Yasir Shah is in the squad, and an array of names largely new to us will display their skills and talents. Yes, I’m admitting that the names Aamer Yamin (three ODIs), Babar Azam (three ODIs), Anwar Ali (17 ODIs), Bilal Asif (two ODIs) and Zafar Gohar (no internationals) are not familiar to me. It’s good to see what is coming through.

I would like, at some point this winter, to see England give a run to Sam Billings. We need to see what he is capable of, and we got a sniff in that partnership with Bairstow that clinched the New Zealand series. I wonder too, how Adil Rashid will go, given he’ll be targetted by the nominal home side. The effectiveness of Willey or Topley will also be very interesting, because I’m not sure there’s a lot more to learn about Woakes or Jordan, for instance.

This should be a decent series of ODIs and then T20s. The four game series is a nonsense – make it five or three – or make it overall a best of 7 for the two formats and have a trophy after that. Of course, we have a T20 practice match with UAE in between, and we can have our debate all over again….

Comments on the game below.

While I am at it, I thought I’d say a few quick words on the Hong Kong Ding Dong. I’m glad it’s over.

Good night.