England vs. Pakistan – Champions Trophy preview

So now we get to the real nitty gritty of the tournament. England have looked imperious during the qualifying stages of the Champions Trophy and as a bonus, instead of being drawn against a high quality South African side, they instead face the unpredictable enigma that is Pakistan. Seriously it is impossible to predict what Pakistan will actually turn up in Cardiff, will it be the one that bowled so well against South Africa or the meek side that got hammered by India, there’s just no point in trying to guess. One thing that Pakistan will need to do to be competitive is improve on their batting dramatically from the past 3 games, as they haven’t anywhere near threatened a score of 300 in the tournament so far and have seemed to take the old England approach of having one aggressive opener and a number of accumulators in the middle order to try and get them to a decent score before they open their shoulders in the last 10 overs. We have seen from past painful experiences with England that this really isn’t a formula for success in the ODI arena, so one would hope that Pakistan will throw off the shackles with their batting tomorrow. We shall see.

As for England, it’s more of the same please, but with one exception; that being that poor old Jason Roy looks like he has finally been dropped from the team tomorrow (it was reported that Bairstow netted today and Roy didn’t, which seems about the biggest hint possible). It’s hard not to feel some sympathy with Roy as he has been an integral part of the white ball set up under Bayliss & Morgan and I do think his presence at the top of the order allows Hales a bit of time to settle into the game; however sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. Roy has just happened to fall into one of the worst trots of form in his England career at the worst possible time; his head looks scrambled and his technique looks all over the place, that coupled with a reserve batsman in prime form waiting in the wings meant that a change was going to be inevitable. There had been talk from Morgan about backing Roy for the whole tournament but I would guess the manner of his dismissals added to the fact that this is a tournament that Director Comma really needs to win to lend credibility to his white ball focus, meant that Roy is now in the firing line. Some may point to the fact that Roy didn’t do himself any favours by sitting on the bench throughout the IPL and I agree that could have possibly been a factor; however young HH has been playing county cricket all season and has a top score of 38, in my opinion, sometimes you are just out of nick irrelevant of circumstances. I’d be shocked if there were any further changes for England, despite Ball not exactly pulling up trees with his bowling. The one thing that could be interesting tomorrow is that this pitch in Cardiff will have been used three times before the game, hence don’t be surprised if it’s a bit two paced and conducive to spin. 300 might not be the par score everyone is expecting  and hence the team batting first will quickly need to assess conditions especially if par is around 275. Misjudge that and 215 all out could beckon.

Then of course, we come to the ticket farce, with as much blame storming flying around as a Tory cabinet meeting. Our good friend shiny toy has naturally waded into the debate now that he has stopped advising everyone on how to deal with the threat of global terror, and naturally he starts off with blaming the fans for not attending:



The fact that Vaughan has used the ticket price as justification for the fans not attending again shows that he is on a different planet to everyone else. So to make it easy for Shiny Toy and #39 to understand, I’ve carefully explained things below:

  1. Many matches are on a weekday and guess what people have to work or look after children, if only it was that easy to drop all commitments for a jolly at the cricket then we’d all be there.
  2. There are very few £30 tickets with the majority being in the £40-£60 bracket. When you factor in travel and food costs you’re probably around £80 lighter at least. In case you hadn’t noticed the economy isn’t exactly in tiptop condition at the moment and many can’t afford the outlay.
  3. Stop holding tournament matches in Wales, give it to Lancs or Yorks if you want bigger crowds to come. The Swalec is a lovely ground and really central but if the surrounding communities are a bit meh about cricket (since they can’t watch it on TV), then why expect people in their droves to turn up to Bangladesh vs. New Zealand.

Anyway rant over on that score, if you are in the Wales vicinity tomorrow there is a good chance of getting a ticket to the game as around 38% of available tickets were bought by Indian fans hedging their bets that have since decided to return their tickets. Hasten to say, it would not surprise me one bit if there are plenty of empty seats at the game tomorrow, however I’m not going to even start on the ICC ticketing procedures….

In other news, there’s also been the announcement of the T20 squad to face South Africa after the Champions trophy with five new debutants in the squad for the three games. It would be nice to see Malan given a go as he has been supremely consistent over the past two years, Liam Livingstone looks like he could be something special and it would be also interesting to have a proper look at Mason Crane, who despite having limited playing time for the Bransgrove lot at the start of the season, still looks a fine prospect. Will anyone actually care about the series after the glut of white ball cricket well that is another matter completely.

Lastly, England have announced the England Lions squad for the one off 4 day game against South Africa A, I wonder if you can spot where England’s focus might be? Anyone else would’ve laughed if they’d included Chef as well?? 

England Lions squad: Keaton Jennings (Durham, capt), Mark Stoneman (Surrey), Haseeb Hameed (Lancashire), Nick Gubbins (Middlesex), Dan Lawrence (Essex), Ben Foakes (Surrey, wk), Sam Curran (Surrey), Jamie Overton (Somerset), Tom Helm (Middlesex), Jamie Porter (Essex), George Garton (Sussex), Jack Leach (Somerset), Dominic Bess (Somerset).

Anyway thoughts on the game and anything else below: