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February 17, 2012
February 18, Dubai
Start time 1500 (1100 GMT)
Features : Akmal still Pakistan's biggest worry
Analysis : Cook's class exposes Pakistan
Features : Classy Cook above them all
News : Buttler suffers hand injury
Matches: England v Pakistan at Dubai (DSC)
Series/Tournaments: England tour of United Arab Emirates
The Big Picture
England's whitewash in the Tests was unexpected and so, too, is their current standing in the one-day series. They are already in an unassailable position following two victories in Abu Dhabi - spearheaded by Alastair Cook and Steven Finn - and a win in Dubai will give them a notable series victory which would buck the trend of their recent struggles away from home in this format.
And they hold the advantage despite only two batsmen firing. Cook has been outstanding with a pair of well-crafted hundreds and was well supported on both occasions by his Essex team-mate Ravi Bopara. The others still have significant issues to confront and it can't be left to the captain all the time. Unlike the batsmen, all the bowlers have played key roles and, as in Test cricket, England possess a fine attack.
Pakistan have plenty of issues to sort out. They appear short of a quality batsman and can't quite decide on the balance of their team. They have got one game left to find out some answers before it is too late to save the series.
Form guide(Most recent first)
Watch out for...
Quietly Samit Patel is have a good few months for England. He didn't lose ground during the whitewash in India and has played a crucial part in the two victories here. His left-arm spin is proving hard to score off - only Afridi, briefly, took to him in Abu Dhabi - while he is selfless with the bat when needed and held a decent catch to remove the dangerous Umar Akmal in the second game. There could well be changes to England's Test squad for Sri Lanka and Patel has done himself no harm.
It took a month, but England finally managed to get through an innings without major damage against Saeed Ajmal during the second one-day international. Ajmal's figures of 1 for 54 were ordinary compared to his recent exploits, but it would be dangerous to suggest England are close to cracking him. It will be a surprise if he goes two consecutive matches with little impact.
Pakistan appear very unsure about what to do with their team, but the lower-order clearly needs to be strengthened. One option is to recall Shoaib Malik, who can also bowl some offspin, or bring in the young allrounder Hammad Azam. Either way it could be Abdur Rehman who makes away after a wicketless display in Abu Dhabi and a horrid 12-ball innings. They may also feel compelled to change the wicketkeeper after two poor games by Umar Akmal, but then balance becomes an issue.
Pakistan (possible) 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Imran Farhat, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Umar Akmal (wk), 7 Hammad Azam, 8 Shahid Afridi, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Aizaz Cheema
England have a fully fit squad to select from for the first time in the series so it's a question of whether they want any rotation. James Anderson could make way for Tim Bresnan but it would be tough on Anderson who bowled well in the second match. Kevin Pietersen remains under pressure.
England (possible) 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Kevin Pietersen, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Ravi Bopara, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 7 Samit Patel, 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steven Finn
Pitch and conditions
A sandstorm caused significant issues for England's training session and the players were forced to wear sunglasses. The wind is due to be strong again on match-day so there could yet be a few problems. The pitch is unlikely to differ much from what has been on offer throughout the tour.
Stats and trivia
"Cooky's such a good player, who is fulfilling his role in the team really, really well. You can't complain when you get two hundreds in successive games."
Kevin Pietersen was full of praise for his captain.
"England have performed very well in both ODIs. They have beaten us in every department."
Misbah-ul-Haq knows where Pakistan need to improve. Everywhere.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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