Teams battle to retain focus
Match factsSeptember 20, 2010, Lord's
Start time 1pm (12pm GMT)
It is just three weeks since these two sides last met at Lord's in an encounter that will live in infamy whatever the result of investigations into allegations of spot-fixing in the fourth Test. A match that included a display of Mohammad Amir's teenage brilliance and an equally eye-catching fightback from Stuart Broad and Jonathan Trott ended in an atmosphere of tense and eerie quiet as England sealed a joyless innings and 225-run thrashing.
The tour continued despite Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt's suspension and even after an easy win for England in the first one-dayer fans on both sides turned out in large numbers at Headingley and The Oval. They were treated to what were, arguably, the two most enthralling contests this summer as England went 2-0 up before a career-best effort from Umar Gul brought the visitors back from the brink of a series defeat.
Now, Pakistan's visit has been thrown into yet more turmoil with the news that the ICC is investigating the third ODI after it received information from a newspaper before the game began alleging that bookies were aware of certain scoring patterns that occurred during the match. While the ICC have been quick to point out that it would be premature to suggest anything untoward occurred during Pakistan's 23-run win, the fans' show of faith now appears depressingly naive.
It had been hoped that Pakistan's visit could finish on the positive note of a hard-fought contest, but the focus may well be elsewhere after the most recent allegations and the frustration and sadness in the England camp was evident ahead of the fourth match. Morale in Pakistan's squad will also have been undermined and it will be a challenge to retain the momentum gleaned from Friday's win. An autumnal Lord's may well seem a bleak venue for what could have been an eagerly-anticipated clash.
Form guide (last five completed matches)
Watch out for...
Ian Bell is poised to return to international duty with England after being recalled to the one-day squad for the final two matches. Bell was been in prolific form for Warwickshire since returning from his metatarsal injury and though he might have hoped for more pleasant circumstances in which to cement his England spot, with a challenging winter ahead he will be looking to make the most of every opportunity.
Shahid Afridi showed glimpses that he was beginning to return to his destructive best at The Oval and if he can find form with the bat and rhythm with the ball he is dynamic and charismatic enough to be a dangerous player regardless of any off-field distractions. Afridi has so far managed to remain distanced from the allegations swirling around his team, and will still be looking to lead from the front.
Ravi Bopara's return to England's middle order has only been partially successful, and either he or Luke Wright could sit out if Paul Collingwood has recovered from the virus that kept him out of the third match and Bell slots back into the line-up.
England (possible) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Steve Davies (wk), 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Ian Bell, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Eoin Morgan, 7 Michael Yardy, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 James Anderson
An embattled Pakistan are likely to stick to the same starting XI, both because this unit was successful in the last match and to present a unified front as the storm surrounding the most recent round of allegations gathers force.
Pakistan (probable) 1 Kamran Akmal (wk), 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Asad Shafiq, 4 Mohammad Yousuf, 5 Fawad Alam, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Abdul Razzaq, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Shoaib Akhtar
Pitch and conditions
Saturday's CB 40 Final, which was also a day/night affair, gave a good indication of what to expect at Lord's. In a match dominated by the ball but won by a batsman, Imran Tahir's returns were the most impressive. The seamers also found plenty in the pitch to keep them interested, however, and Bell's knock highlighted the value of having someone to bat through most of the innings. Although temperatures are likely to be on the low side once again, rain shouldn't be an issue.
Stats and Trivia
- Bell's performance against Somerset extended his domestic limited-overs tally this season to 554 runs at 61.55, including six fifties and Saturday's fluent hundred. Bell has also been in decent nick in his limited Championship and he scored the only hundred of the match against Hampshire last week to secure Warwickshire's spot in Division One.
- Umar Gul clearly enjoys bowling at The Oval, and has taken 20 wickets at an average of 11.00 across three formats there. He is less enamored with Lord's, where has 12 wickets in two Tests and three T20Is at 31.08.
- Opinions are split over Fawad Alam's success as a one-day player. While he has an impressive average of 45.00 that has been inflated by finishing not out eight times 18 innings in ODIs, and in matches where he has been dismissed his average dips to 27.60. His career strike-rate of 75.00 doesn't suggest that he's set the world alight, but in the ten ODIs he has played in in which Pakistan have won he averages 110.00, and so it appears he relishes the role of stabiliser and finisher in the middle order.
"They've been three very hard-fought cricket matches. There certainly seems to be passion on both sides, they've been high intensity affairs."
Despite the most recent round of allegations, England captain Andrew Strauss suggests he's been given the impression of three keenly-contested games
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo in the UK