The five-match one-day series assumes great significance for both England and Pakistan. While England desperately need to make amends for their 0-5 thrashing at the hands of Sri Lanka recently, Pakistan have a bit of catching up to do with their old rivals, as their head-to-head record indicates.
Despite an enviable Test record in England, Pakistan have struggled in the one-dayers in the past, and their last victory in a bilateral series in England came way back in 1974, in which Pakistan won 2-0. Since then, the sides have played six bilateral series in England - with England winning all - and their most comprehensive victory came in 1992, when they took the series 4-1 after losing the Test series.
Both teams have better records chasing a target, which is more prominent in Pakistan's case. They have won six out of 14 games batting second, as opposed to three out of 12 batting first. As far as the toss is concerned, Pakistan have won only two out of eight matches in which they have opted to bat first.
The absence of a specialist spinner in the England squad may seem like a gamble, but the numbers back this move. Part of the reason for Pakistan's dismal record in England is the fact that they have struggled against the moving ball, and the comparison of wickets taken by the fast/medium-fast bowlers and the spinners is lopsided. In 26 ODIs in England, the seamers have accounted for 140 Pakistani wickets, while the spinners have just 29.
England will rely on Marcus Trescothick to fire at the top, given that he was their most consistent batsman in the ODIs against Sri Lanka, averaging over 55. He has an impressive record against Pakistan, averaging over 40 in 15 matches. However, a closer look at his statistics against Pakistan makes for interesting reading. When batting second, he averages 69.16, but his average batting first is a paltry 18.75. Trescothick has an excellent head-to-head record against Shoaib Akhtar, though - in 119 balls from Shoaib, Trescothick has scored 89 runs and has been dismissed just once.
Despite losing the Test series, Pakistan's biggest gain was the performance of their middle order, and the performances of Mohammad Yousuf, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Younis Khan will be crucial in the ODI series as well. Yousuf averages 44.16 against England , and has done well against them in all conditions, but that's not quite the case with Inzamam. His overseas average of 26.62 doesn't quite compare to his average of 118 against England in home conditions.
Steve Harmison's withdrawal due to injury will come as a blow to England's inexperienced attack, and will increase the responsibility on Darren Gough, now recalled to the one-day side. Gough will be the key, given that his bowling average in home ODIs against Pakistan is 24.46 compared to his away average of 47.67. The long-awaited return of Shoaib will bolster Pakistan, and he will be expected to carry the attack. He has picked up more wickets against England than any other member in the squad - 17 at 25.58.