England v Pakistan, 3rd npower Test, The Oval August 17, 2010

England aim to close out series

Match facts

August 18, 2010, The Oval
Start time 11.00 (1000GMT)

Big picture

England had to work harder than expected to wrap up the second Test - and at one stage their frustrations, especially Stuart Broad's, boiled over - but eventually a commanding nine-wicket success confirmed the gulf between these two teams. Now the home side's attention is firmly fixed on a whitewash as the countdown to the Ashes gathers pace; with a little help from Ricky Ponting's whitewash comments.

Pakistan continue to be a mind-boggling mixture of confused signals, but after much deliberation it has been confirmed that Zulqarnain Haider is out of the series which is a major blow after his gutsy display last week. How much impact Broad's throw actually had on Haider's finger is still subject to conjecture, but it adds a bit of spice to this encounter. The Oval, of course, has had its fair share of controversy in England-Pakistan contests when four years ago the match was abandoned on the fourth evening after Darrell Hair accused the visitors of ball tampering.

This time, though, the venue should lift Pakistan's hopes of fighting back to at least give England a decent contest. The ball is unlikely to move as much (although cloudy weather is still a possibility) and it is a fast-scoring ground. Mohammad Yousuf will return to strengthen the batting line-up, though he is short of form and fitness. So far Pakistan's lower order has been more productive than the top and Salman Butt desperately needs to rediscover his form. If the pitch turns Saeed Ajmal could also prove a handful with England's batsmen struggling to pick his doosra.

But it's very hard to see England being denied another victory over the next five days. They have three impressive quicks backed up by the outstanding Graeme Swann. What this match does present is the chance for the batsmen to dominate and show their hunger for big scores. Alastair Cook is most in need of a major contribution after a difficult season, but this England team doesn't ditch players at the first sign of a problem.

Form guide (last five completed matches)

England WWWWW
Pakistan LLWLL

Watch out for...

Stuart Broad made the headlines for the wrong reasons at Edgbaston for his petulant display on the third afternoon when he hurled the ball at Zulqarnain Haider in his follow through, having twice not turned to the umpire in earlier appeals. He copped a fine, but was lucky not to get himself a ban and wickets are unlikely to come as easily at The Oval so Broad's attitude will be closely watched. His aggressive mindset has been supported by team-mates and management, including bowling coach David Saker, but he continues to tread a fine line and the umpires will be keeping an eye on him.

After ruling himself out last week Mohammad Yousuf will resume his Test career and bring vital experience to the middle order. He managed a brief innings during the rain-effected match against Worcestershire where he made 40 off 54 balls but will be nowhere near peak readiness. There is a suggestion that his recall hasn't gone down well with Salman Butt who wants to put his faith in youth, but without Yousuf their top order is as callow as anything in recent memory.

Team news

In a break from the norm England named their XI three days out from the Test to allow Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad to play for Yorkshire. Bresnan flew down to London from Newcastle to link up for the final practice day, but is only on standby for any late scares.

England 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Eoin Morgan, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Graeme Swann, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steven Finn

As always Pakistan's team proved something of a guessing game, but in the end they have opted for four changes - enforced and otherwise - to the side that lost at Edgbaston. Kamran Akmal returns to replace the injured Haider and Yousuf comes into the middle order at the expense of Umar Amin, with Yasir Hameed finally getting an outing in place of Shoaib Malik as well. Umar Gul is also ruled out which means a debut for the left-armer Wahab Riaz.

Pakistan 1 Yasir Hameed, 2 Imran Farhat, 3 Salman Butt (capt), 4 Azhar Ali, 5 Mohammad Yousuf, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Kamran Akmal (wk), 8 Mohammad Amir, 9 Wahab Riaz, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Mohammad Asif

Pitch and conditions

Last year Bill Gordon produced a raging turner for the deciding Ashes clash and played a major part in England reclaiming the urn. There is no need for anything so dramatic this time and we can expect a far contest between bat and ball. Sadly, the British summer continues to splutter along and rain could have an impact on proceedings.

Stats and Trivia

  • Four players from both sides (presuming Yousuf and Kamran do play) survive from the infamous clash in 2006 including Andrew Strauss who was the England captain.

  • During the 2006 series Yousuf scored 631 runs at 90.14 including three hundreds.

  • Jonathan Trott is 77 runs short of a 1000 in Tests, a year after making his debut on this ground against Australia. Meanwhile, Graeme Swann needs three wickets for 100.

  • England haven't lost in their last eight Tests at The Oval and have won five of them.

Quotes

"This is the start of silly season I suppose, people coming out with their predictions. Predictions ultimately mean nothing, it's how you play on the pitch so I think we'll just keep it nice and simple."
Andrew Strauss won't get drawn into Ricky Ponting's Ashes whitewash talk

"He looked pretty good while he was batting at Worcester. But obviously once he starts playing matches the match fitness comes into it."
Salman Butt knows it will be a challenge for Mohammad Yousuf as he returns to Test cricket

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments