Battered Pakistan search for inspiration
Match factsSeptember 10, 2010, Chester-le-Street
Start time 10.15am (9.15am GMT)
It's September, but with five one-day internationals still to be played the end of the English summer continues to appear some distance off. This is not the finale that anyone had planned with Pakistan exhibiting the malaise and confusion it was feared they would when the spot-fixing allegations that have rocked cricket's very foundations were first brought to light.
Appearing distracted and mentally unprepared, they were easily swept away by England in the short Twenty20 series in Cardiff and the autumnal end of what has been densely-packed summer is threatening to turn into a one-sided farce. A Pakistan team that includes the likes of Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal and Shoaib Akhtar can never be totally written off, however, and England will still, surely, be wary of a backlash.
But the scent of scandal hanging over the team will not dissipate any time soon, and though captain Afridi has suggested that just one victory would do wonders for the team's morale it's difficult to see how they could turn things round and regain their focus sufficiently to take this series the full distance.
England probably wouldn't mind a stiffer challenge to prepare them for a winter in Australia and, despite the notable run of their success, they still have questions to be answered and flaws to be ironed out. It is England's batsmen, rather than the bowlers, that appear a touch unsettled, and there will be another shake-up as the squad switches to one-day mode and and Andrew Strauss returns to the helm.
With dwindling crowds also a concern as the summer draws in, interested parties from across the spectrum want nothing more than a competitive and absorbing contest. Whether that will be the case remains to be seen.
Form guide (last five completed matches)
Watch out for...
In the course of the two Twenty20s in Cardiff, Michael Yardy appeared to come of age as an international cricketer. The effectiveness of his bowling in limited-overs cricket has not been in doubt since his recall, but his batting - which he insists is his stronger suit - is also becoming increasingly reliable. He was at the crease with Eoin Morgan when victory was secured in both games, and is well on his way to becoming a genuine international allrounder.
For a player who has not yet been selected for the national side gigantic left-arm seamer Mohammad Irfan has already built up quite a following, aided by the spread of videos of his bowling online on sites such as Youtube. Although his exact height has not yet been verified, he is undoubtedly very tall indeed and the awkward bounce he will generate - allied to the left-arm trajectory - could prove challenging for an England line-up that is not quite firing on all cylinders.
England's squad has, for obvious reasons, been by far the more settled during Pakistan's visit but Kevin Pietersen's absence, and Steve Davies' introduction, has mixed things up a bit. Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott also return to the side for the one-dayers and with Ravi Bopara likely to keep his place it may be Luke Wright who is edged out for the time being.
England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Steve Davies (wk), 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Paul Collingwood, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Ravi Bopara, 7 Tim Bresnan, 8 Michael Yardy, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 James Anderson
There is always a measure of uncertainty in picking Pakistan's squad but apart from the introduction of Irfan, who was called up in the midst of a glut of injuries that added to their woes in an already turbulent summer, there probably won't be too many changes. Asad Shafiq is likely to remain a reserve batsman, and while Fawad Alam froze under pressure in the Twenty20s, he showed in Pakistan's warm-up against Somerset that, given time at the crease, he can be an effective limited-overs batsman and will probably be retained. Given his greater experience at the top of the order, Mohammad Hafeez could also be preferred to Shahzaib Hasan.
Pakistan (possible) 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Kamran Akmal (wk), 3 Mohammad Yousuf, 4 Umar Akmal, 5 Shahid Afridi (capt), 6 Fawad Alam, 7 Abdul Razzaq, 8 Umar Gul, 9 Mohammad Irfan, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Shoaib Akhtar.
Pitch and conditions
Expect the bowlers to dominate in helpful conditions in Durham. The last match to be played at Chester-le-Street was a low-scoring CB 40 match in which both spinners and seamers picked up wickets. Overcast conditions could also help the ball to swing but, thankfully, rain is unlikely.
Stats and Trivia
- The vastly experienced Mohammad Yousuf is Pakistan's second-highest runscorer in ODIs behind Inzamam ul-Haq with 9458 runs. He is also second to another great - Saeed Anwar - in the list of Pakistan's one-day century makers with 15 in 275 games to Anwar's 20.
- Graeme Swann passed 50 wickets in the summer - across all formats - during the Cardiff Twenty20s and now has 52 international scalps at a combined average of 16.46 this season
"Despite whatever allegations have been out there, I still maintain that cricket generally is a very clean sport and that two teams are playing to beat the other 100%. If I can allay fears, I think there is no chance in my mind that these games coming up will not be played in that spirit."
Despite further allegations in the spot-fixing scandal, Andrew Strauss remains confident for cricket's future
"Unless he's dropped, he will play. If I'm told, 'Don't play X, Y, Z,' they won't play. If I'm not told, I'll select the best team. But I've not been told anything. Let's wait."
Pakistan's manager Yawar Seed says fast bowler Wahab Riaz, who will be questioned by Scotland Yard, isn't out of contention for selection.
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo