Given what's transpired in this World Cup over the first four days, it might not be a stretch to call this one of the tournament's great mismatches, insomuch as the ICC would admit to ten-team World Cups also producing mismatches. England, surely, have bigger challenges ahead, with this game a routine stepping stone to their inexorable march to Lord's six weeks from now. The way Pakistan folded in that first game of their World Cup campaign at the same venue in Nottingham, Lahore seems a lot closer than London for them, if only in terms of likely destination rather than actual proximity.
England's progress continues to be so eerily serene the natural pessimists who followed their cricket in the 1990s feel sure something will come unstuck along the line. And yet if fate has that cruel twist in store for them, it's hiding it exceptionally well. The first game was as emblematic of England's evolution in ODI cricket as any contest has been in the four years since this Eoin Morgan-led team became a world force, the pressure of the big occasion barely registering as they brushed aside South Africa. When Jonny Bairstow was removed for a golden duck, there was no alarm; four batsmen scored half-centuries to cover for the failure. Of course, the bowlers and fielders backed them up, almost erasing that little blip from memory.
For Pakistan, the time for chaos, panic, recriminations and reckoning that follows most World Cup campaign feels it's drawing ever-nearer. The first game of the tournament for them was Pakistan at their worst: weak, seemingly ill-prepared, timid and gormless. It was one of the bleakest days in the history of Pakistan at the World Cup - and make no mistake, Pakistan have had plenty of those. Their surrender in the face of a short bowling barrage from West Indies means they can expect much the same against England, whose bowlers will keep them on the back foot so long they might bruise their Achilles heels.
These two sides played each other in a five-match series just last month, and while England won 4-0, there was no sign of the Pakistan that showed up against West Indies. Indeed, it was the sort of series defeat that allowed Pakistan plenty of positives. They scored above 340 three times out of four against that England attack, and most top-order batsmen got runs. So if the West Indies game was Pakistan at their worst, they can only improve. Pakistan believe they are much closer to the team that almost beat England in two of the four completed games. That was only a fortnight ago, but given what's happened since, it doesn't feel as recent.
For both England and Pakistan, the ghost of the 1992 World Cup hovers above this fixture. For England, that was their last successful - some might say last respectable - World Cup campaign, but it was ended then by a Pakistan side in the final that began the tournament just as poorly as this one. Now, in a light blue strip seen as a respectful nod to the achievements of that Australian summer, England look to go one step further at home 27 years on. Pakistan, meanwhile, cannot stop thinking or talking about that World Cup, both for inspiration and hope, though if they are to put up the same showing tomorrow as they did on Friday, those comparisons will begin to ring more and more hollow.
England WWWWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
If only for Pakistan's travails against the short ball, Jofra Archer will take centre stage in an even bigger way than he has done for all sorts of reasons over the past month. With none other than Waqar Younis saying Archer would be "licking his lips" at the thought of bowling to Pakistan's batsmen, the England seamer has the opportunity to play to his natural strengths, using his raw pace to push Pakistan's batsmen back. He began the tournament in ominous fashion with 3 for 27 against South Africa to rip out their middle order, and against Pakistan in the washed-out first ODI at The Oval, his four-over burst was so fiercely effective it was arguably the day Archer's ticket to the World Cup was punched. Pakistan are there for the taking again, and England have just the man for the job.
In times like these, the onus falls on players of established, undisputed quality. Among their batting ranks, Pakistan can only name one player to fit that bill. Babar Azam has effortlessly become the leader of the batting line-up, and with numbers like his in a team that has long cried out for a successor to Inzamam, Mohammad Yousaf and Younis Khan, it's hardly a surprise. Two fifties and a hundred in the recent series against England means he has form - Babar always has form. And when an entire side, as Pakistan do now, look to have been technically exposed by one simple plan, it is Babar who must step up and establish that the West Indies game was an aberration. He must also do it at a strike rate that has a chance of challenging England; his 112-ball 115 at this venue a fortnight ago copped criticism for being too slow against a team like England. No pressure, then.
Given how comfortable England were in their mauling of South Africa, an unchanged side wouldn't be a surprise. But England's strength in depth means changes wouldn't necessarily expose weakness, so the substitutes are ready to go, should they be called upon.
England: (possible) 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Tom Curran, 9 Mark Wood, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Jofra Archer.
Pakistan's lack of power hitting, in sharp contrast to England, means Asif Ali should come back into the side, not least because of his performance in the ODI series against the home side. With the wicket expected to be flat and slow, Imad Wasim could find himself surplus to requirements, with Shoaib Malik - a batting allrounder - more likely to be favoured following Pakistan's showing against West Indies.
Pakistan: (possible) 1 Imam-ul-Haq, 2 Fakhar Zaman, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Mohammad Hafeez , 6 Sarfaraz Ahmed, (capt,wk), 7 Asif Ali, 8 Shadab Khan, 9 Mohammad Amir, 10 Hasan Ali / Mohammad Hasnain, 11 Wahab Riaz
Pitch and conditions
It rained heavily the day before the game, but the clouds are expected to clear for match day. The pitch - the same one on which England have twice broken the record for highest ODI score, most recently reaching 481 for 6 against Australia last year - is expected to be especially flat, but Morgan insisted it was quite different to that wicket in how it was expected to behave.
Forget variation, forget unpredictability, let Jofra Archer bowl short to Pakistan. And consider playing Mark Wood instead of Liam Plunkett, allow his extra pace to trouble Pakistan that much more. For the bowlers, it should be a short strategy meeting.
Give Shadab Khan the first over. Okay, this pitch might be different to the one where South Africa employed that strategy with Imran Tahir. But this isn't about what the ground between the batsman and the bowler looks like, it's about what's going on between the ears of the man with bat in hand. Jason Roy was the man South Africa wanted to trouble with leg-spin; it ended up dismissing Jonny Bairstow instead.
Let Babar Azam open the batting instead of Fakhar Zaman. England's high-class bowlers need to be countered with Pakistan's two technically tightest batsmen. Fakhar will struggle against the short ball, and England won't give him the room he needs to play his shots. Leave him for when the opening bowlers are done, and ensure early wickets aren't lost.
Stats and trivia
Pakistan and England have played each other nine times in ODI World Cups, with four wins apiece and one no-result in the group stages of the 1992 World Cup.
"It's well known we enjoy chasing. We don't mind setting either but we do enjoy chasing. There is a small advantage to it, knowing what you're trying to get."
Eoin Morgan tentatively reveals his side's preference at the toss
"They have to play 300 balls to get to that record, but we have to bowl 10 good balls to get 10 wickets."
Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood backs his side to stop England surpassing their own milestone of 481 on the same Trent Bridge pitch