September 12, 2010, Headingley
Start time 10.15am (9.15am GMT)
While it seems that nothing could rid the backdrop of spot-fixing allegations from this series, the lingering hope is that a keen contest between these two sides might at least provide a moment of relief. The abject nature of Pakistan's pair of defeats in the Twenty20 series, played in front of half-empty stands at Cardiff, left a fear that the one-day series could descend into a more unappetising farce than even the seven-match trudge against Australia at the end of last summer. Thankfully, without really threatening England, Pakistan still demonstrated enough spirit and backbone in the first game to keep their fans hoping.
The much-hyped introduction of enormous paceman Mohammad Irfan may have failed to match the billing but the veteran Shoaib Akthar sweated through an impressive opening spell and provided enough of a test to keep England's batsmen hopping. Saeed Ajmal continued to weave the confusion that has hounded England all summer and most significantly, Pakistan's fielding was smart and at times - such as Umar Akmal's direct-hit from the outfield to dismiss Tim Bresnan - positively sharp.
The batting too was much improved. Kamran Akmal managed his first decent performance of a chastening summer, while his brother Umar flickered with his abundant talent once again and there were spirited contributions throughout the order. It was enough for Andrew Strauss to unleash that most trite of clichés by declaring after the match that "cricket was the winner". Though It speaks volumes for how low Pakistan had sunk that a comfortable England win was seen as progress, another improvement at Edgbaston could put the teams on more equal footing.
England, for their part, are quietly piecing together a team to challenge for the World Cup in February. Their limited-overs cricket has improved beyond recognition since the 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Australia last summer, and the World Twenty20 champions have now won four ODI series in a row and show no signs of stopping.
The demand for continual improvement saw Craig Kieswetter dumped out of the team for Steve Davies as the England management set a clear challenge - perform now and book your place for the World Cup. Davies' response was perfect, striking the ball sweetly to race to 87 from 67 deliveries and both earn the Man-of-the-Match award and high praise from his captain. Alongside him Ravi Bopara's international rehabilitation continued with a breezy unbeaten 37 to finish the innings. Both still have plenty to prove and that context alone gives England supporters something to follow.
Form guide (last five completed matches)
Watch out for...
Such is his style, Paul Collingwood's contributions in England's middle-order can often be overshadowed by his more flamboyant team-mates. But since England's triumph against Australia earlier this summer, his returns have dipped noticeably and he is due a score in one-day cricket. Positive starts in the second Twenty20 and first ODI against Pakistan - including a dismissive flick over the square leg boundary after charging Shoaib Akhtar in Cardiff - gave a hint of his enduring ability in limited-overs cricket.
Before his inexplicable brainwrong at Chester-le-Street, Umar Akmal had threatened to take the game away from England singlehandedly with an array of attacking cricket shots. There is no doubt that the younger Akmal oozes talent, but if Pakistan are to reverse their slide this summer they will need more than attractive cameos from him. Though he is only 20 years old, the sooner Akmal finds the level-head to take responsibility for the middle order, the better.
England rung the changes for this series and after starting on a winning note they are likely to stick with the chosen XI to deliver the goods again.
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
Pakistan's improvement was palpable but Umar Gul's below-par showing at Chester-le-Street could tempt them to recall Abdul Razzaq to bolster the batting as well.
Pakistan (possible) 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Kamran Akmal (wk), 3 Mohammad Yousuf, 4 Umar Akmal, 5 Shahid Afridi (capt), 6 Fawad Alam, 7 Asad Shafiq, 8 Umar Gul, 9 Mohammad Irfan, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Shoaib Akhtar.
Pitch and conditions
The Headingley wicket is variable, and - particularly when there is cloud cover - aids seam bowling. Recent matches at the ground have shown that there are runs to be had when the sun shines, however, and Alastair Cook cracked an aggressive unbeaten hundred in a seven-wicket win over Yorkshire in the CB 40 last weekend. With a reasonably sunny day expected tomorrow, this could be a game for the batsmen.
Stats and Trivia
Shahid Afridi hasn't looked in particularly good nick since returning to Pakistan's squad for the limited-overs leg of their tour, which may be an indication of how much of an effect outside events have had on team morale. Afridi has scratched together just 37 runs in three international innings since his return without clearing the ropes once, but he's still international cricket's leading six-hitter in ODIs this year, and also still tops the lists for highest strike-rate in an innings. After his hundreds against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in Dambulla just over two months ago, much more is expected of Pakistan's captain.
Jonathan Trott's fantastic run of form this summer has brought him 942 runs in home internationals in 2010 at the inflated average of 85.63. He has registered two Test hundreds, one in ODIs, and in matches in which England have won he averages a round 100.
The two games I played previously, one was when Matty [Prior] was out and the other was just a one-off Twenty20. But I feel this is now my time. It's a great chance for me."
Steve Davies is determined to make the most of his second crack at international cricket with England
"We all want to go home with respect. We are good cricketers and want to maintain our respect and that is gained by playing good cricket. After a victory the respect will come again."
Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi is hoping his side can regain their standing in international cricket despite the spot-fixing allegations that have been levelled in recent times