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February 7, 2012
Jos Buttler and Danny Briggs have been named in England's limited-overs squads to face Pakistan in the UAE. The pair, both of whom are uncapped in ODI cricket, have been included in the squad that will play four ODIs and three Twenty20 internationals.
Ian Bell, however, was omitted from the squad. Bell had passed 50 only once in his last 14 ODI innings and had looked uncomfortable against Saeed Ajmal's spin in the recently concluded Test series. It is entirely possible that Bell, aged 29 and a veteran of 108 ODIs, has played his last limited-overs match for England.
Buttler, a 21-year-old from Somerset, has been in good form recently for England Lions. He struck two centuries and a half-century in his last five innings against Sri Lanka A, including one century from just 56 deliveries. He broke into England's Twenty20 side towards the end of the English season after impressing in several important games - notably the CB40 final and the FPt20 quarter-final. He is seen as having the big-match temperament and the big-hitting game to prove a destructive ODI player. He can also keep wicket.
Briggs, a 20-year-old left-arm spinner from Hampshire, is one of three spinners in the 16-man squad. A bowler who relies more on control than any extravagant turn, England hope Briggs proves well-suited to the slow, low pitches anticipated in the UAE.
Tim Bresnan, who has just rejoined the England squad, having earlier returned to England for further treatment on an elbow injury that required surgery at the start of December, is also included subject to further fitness tests.
Nottinghamshire batsman Alex Hales will join the squad for the Twenty20 leg of the tour, with Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott returning to England. Stuart Broad is the captain of England's Twenty20 side that will be looking to retain their World Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka in September.
England's National Selector, Geoff Miller, said: "We have selected two squads that include both experienced international players and younger players who have performed strongly for England Lions in recent months and deserve an opportunity to further test themselves against quality opposition. Playing against Pakistan in the UAE will be challenging but it is important that these players continue to develop their skills so that we are able to make strides in limited-overs cricket particularly on the subcontinent."
England have a mixed ODI record. While their home form remains impressive - they won series against both World Cup finalists, India and Sri Lanka, at home in 2011 - their away form is grim. They lost all five matches against India in October and 14 of their last 20 outside England. They have won just five and tied the other.
Their record in Asia is even more gruesome. Since December 12, 2005, England have won just 12 of 38 ODIs in Asia and four of those victories came against Bangladesh and the Netherlands. Pakistan, by contrast, have won 12 of their last 13 ODIs and 23 of their last 30. England, however, have won five of the last seven ODI meetings between the sides.
In a bid to improve the tempo of England's batting, Kevin Pietersen will be given another opportunity to open the innings, with Craig Kieswetter dropping down to bat at No. 5. While England hope Pietersen can exploit the powerplay overs, after a brief experiment at the World Cup before his injury, Kieswetter is also seen as an accomplished hitter of the older, softer ball. Both may require productive series to silence their critics.
Kieswetter has only passed 50 once in his last 24 ODIs, while Pietersen has not made a score of 80 or more since November 2008.
Indeed, in that period, he has only passed 50 three times in 34 innings. But England have invested a lot of time in both of them and would be loathe to change tactics now.
England will warm-up for the series by taking on England Lions on Friday, before the ODI series begins in Abu Dhabi on February 13.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge