Match factsSeptember 22, 2010, Southampton
Start time 2.30pm (1.30pm GMT)
Were it not for all the scandal and controversy that has rocked cricket this summer, Wednesday's Rose Bowl decider between England and Pakistan would surely be seen as a fitting finale to a classic series. It is a testament to the pedigree of these two teams in one-day cricket that, despite the continuing rumblings, rumours, allegations and counter-allegations, they have managed to produce four watchable and absorbing contests and while there may well be further addition to the ongoing off-field saga ahead of the fifth and final match, the cricket itself will surely be of the highest standard.
England were on the brink of pulling out of the series before the fourth match at Lord's and the ECB announced that it would be taking legal action against Ijaz Butt, the chairman of the PCB, after his allegations that England's players accepted a bribe to lose the third ODI at The Oval. But the tour has continued and after coming back from 2-0 down it seems increasingly apparent that Pakistan's cricketers have been better able than England's to maintain their focus amid a couple of hard-fought encounters.
Admittedly, Pakistan have relied largely on the personal brilliance of Umar Gul, who took 10 wickets in the two victories, to put them in this position. But Gul's performances have also had a noticeable effect on the rest of the team and amid the controversy Pakistan have rallied to seize the momentum. Kamran Akmal appears a changed man after his horrific form in Tests this summer, the batting order as a whole has grown in confidence and Shoaib Akhtar has defied age and injury with a string of consistent performances. Add to that Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi's destructive batting and allround ability and Saeed Ajmal's guile, and Pakistan look like formidable opponents.
England, on the other hand, seem jaded at the end of a long and arduous summer and it will surely be a relief to get this final match out of the way, whatever the result. England have dominated five series across three formats this season but a chaotic and controversial end would hardly be the best preparation ahead of a challenging winter in Australia. England will want to end on a positive note, but will be even more desperate to move on as quickly as possible once it is all over.
Form guide (last five completed matches)
Watch out for...
Andrew Strauss has led England from the front all summer, appearing an assured, attacking captain and a batsman of increasing authority in all formats. Strauss will recognise the importance of a series win despite the overwhelming clamour of off-field distractions in recent days and his sparkling form makes him a vital component at the top of the order.
Umar Gul is currently without equal with an old, reverse-swinging ball in his hands in one-day cricket, and his potency was further increased under lights in the two London encounters. Perhaps crucially, the decider will also be a day/night affair and if Pakistan bat first once again - and the batsmen can scrap their way to a competitive total - Gul could well be Pakistan's hero once more.
Paul Collingwood has endured droughts and lean runs in the past, but he has appeared so woefully out of nick in recent games that he is a strong candidate for a rest with more important challenges ahead in the coming months. Luke Wright and Ravi Bopara are both primed to push for his spot in the middle order, but England are otherwise a settled unit.
England (possible) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Steve Davies (wk), 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Ian Bell, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Ravi Bopara, 7 Michael Yardy, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 James Anderson
Pakistan have struck a winning combination and, barring injury, are likely to stick with the same starting XI. Shoaib Akhtar appeared to be struggling with a side strain towards the end of his spell at Lord's, but the word from the Pakistan camp is that he is fit to play in Wednesday's decider.
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
The Rose Bowl had a reputation as a seamer's paradise in its early years, but the pitch has settled down considerably since then. The last ODI at the ground, between England and Australia in June, was a reasonably high-scoring affair featuring an Eoin Morgan ton and some tap for the spinners on both sides. With fine weather in prospect, the challenge of batting under lights will be less daunting than it might otherwise have been, although - it being late September and all - temperatures are likely to be on the low side once again.
Stats and Trivia
- Andrew Strauss has been in top form this summer, with 1,122 international runs since Bangladesh visited in May. While his Test form has been reasonable, Strauss's transformation into an attacking limited-overs opener has been remarkable, and he's scored 781 runs in 13 games, including two hundreds and a top score of 154. He's also hit 12 of his 30 international sixes this summer.
- If Pakistan bowl under lights, Umar Gul will surely be their most potent weapon. He has 45 wickets in the second innings of day/night ODIs at 21.20 as compared to his career average of 26.32. He now averages 17.92 in ODIs against England.
- Despite Gul's night-time prowess, Pakistan will have to overcome a statistical trend if they are to win bowling second at the Rose Bowl. Three of the four day/night ODIs played there have been won by the side batting second, including Pakistan on their last visit in 2006.
"I've got to give a lot of credit to my players for the professional manner they went about their business, and ultimately I'm very proud of them from that point of view. I've got to give a lot of credit to the players from both sides for doing that."
England captain Andrew Strauss has been impressed by the ability of both sides to focus on the cricket in this scandal-hit series
"The boys really performed to the best of their ability, and this is what Pakistan is really all about. We are here to play good cricket."
Strauss's opposite number, Shahid Afridi, is keen to let Pakistan's cricket do the talking
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo in the UK