One of the more interesting (if slightly off-topic) snippets of information to emerge from the ECB’s briefing on The Hundred at Lord’s on Wednesday was that the scorecards for the World Cup have had to be recalibrated to allow for the possibility of 500 runs being scored in a single innings.
For the sakes of the statisticians at Trent Bridge, it has to be hoped that the new batch has been printed already. Because if the mood of England’s batsmen, allied to the recent reputation of the country’s most run-laden one-day venue, are anything to go by, we could be in for another monstrous batting performance in the fourth ODI on Friday.
It’s not just England who are in a bit of a mood at the moment. Pakistan must have believed they’d given themselves a shot at squaring the series in Bristol on Tuesday, when Imam-ul-Haq’s brilliant 151 from 131 balls provided the bedrock to what, in any ordinary scenario, would have been a formidably challenging total of 358 for 9.
Instead, with Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy pushing the parameters of their world-beating alliance at the top of the order, England cantered to their target with an absurd 5.1 overs to spare. Pakistan’s efforts, said Eoin Morgan with calculated disdain at the post-match presentation, had been no more than “par”. Like Tiger Woods at Augusta in 1997, England are in the process of redefining exactly what par entails.
As for Trent Bridge, well, this is a ground on which all bets are off. With its leg-side boundary bisected by the erection of the new Bridgford Road Stand in 2016, it has been a scandalously prolific venue for white-ball batsmen at county and international level alike: in two of their last three completed matches, England have twice ransacked their own record for runs in a single innings – 444 for 3 against Pakistan in 2016, and a world-record 481 for 6 against Australia last summer.
If England bat first under anything resembling clear skies – and it’s not their preferred tactic, but someone’s got to do it – who knows what they might be capable of posting. One note of caution: they did just that on their most recent visit, against India in July last year, and collapsed in a heap to the wrist-spin of Kuldeep Yadav. But expectation is nevertheless mounting as they seek to flex their muscles and reaffirm their World Cup front-runner status.
They will have to take the field without the services of Morgan, who will be serving a suspension after a miserably slow over rate in Bristol. But on the plus side from the point of view of pyrotechnics, that almost certainly means that Jos Buttler will have to return to the side as captain, after sitting out the last game. And having pillaged a 50-ball century on his most recent visit to the crease, it’s safe to say he’s seeing it all right.
As for Pakistan, they can be proud of their batting performances with some individual brilliance in the form of Fakhar Zaman‘s 138 off 106 in Southampton and Imam-ul-Haq‘s knock in the third game as well as some solid support acts throughout from Asif Ali, Babar Azam, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Haris Sohail. Against any other side in the world they would have backed themselves to win either of those matches. But therein lies the problem.
Bowling has been an issue for Pakistan, particularly against a line-up as strong as England’s and on the batting-friendly wickets they have encountered. To have taken only seven wickets in the last two ODIs, after the first match was washed out, has not been good enough in this series and they need to find answers – fast.
England WWWLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Let’s be absolutely frank about this. Ben Stokes‘ place in England’s starting XI for the World Cup is about as much of a cast-iron certainty as you can get in this sport. He is the pivot of their batting and bowling attacks, the one unequivocal world-class allrounder in a team stacked with options, and one of the most committed men you could ever hope to take onto the field – a man who could claw in a screamer in the covers, and claw back a certain four at long-on. But he has been a strangely mute presence in England’s team for some months now – ever since the Bristol trial, it is almost as though he has become too bound by his duty to the team, and not sufficiently care-free out in the middle. He could really do with having a cobweb-clearing thrash, just to remind himself of the fun that can be had playing cricket.
Abid Ali could well make an appearance with plenty at stake – not least his place at the World Cup. Asif’s twin half-centuries have put him position for a late call-up to the tournament and someone has to make way. With a century and a duck from the only two ODIs he has played, Abid’s performance, should he play in Nottingham, could be vital to his hopes of retaining his place once Pakistan’s World Cup squad is finalised next week. Imam-ul-Haq could be rested at Trent Bridge, giving Abid the ultimate opportunity.
After roaring into top gear on England’s tour of the Caribbean, it’s been a muted few months for Mark Wood. Kept on the sidelines by that ever niggly ankle, he was then selected for two of Durham’s Royal London clashes at Grantham and Leeds, but never made it onto the field due to bad weather. He’s had to watch and wait while Jofra Archer takes all the attention, and now – with just two games remaining until the final World Cup squad shake-down – he needs to hit the ground running. He and Archer will take the places of Liam Plunkett and Chris Woakes, neither of whom have been given time off ahead of the World Cup – read into that what you will – as has Bairstow after his century at Bristol. Adil Rashid is set to return, but Joe Denly could be given one last chance to prove his worth.
England: (possible) 1 Jason Roy, 2 James Vince, 3 Joe Root, 4 Jos Buttler (capt, wk), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Joe Denly, 7 Adil Rashid, 8 Moeen Ali, 9 Tom Curran, 11 Jofra Archer, 11 Mark Wood.
Aside from Abid coming in for Imam-ul-Haq, there are a number of other possible changes expected for Pakistan. Mohammad Hasnain is expected to play in place of Faheem Ashraf as the team continues to tinker with their bowling options. Shoaib Malik, who joined the squad in Bristol after a period of personal leave at home but did not play, could make his return and Mohammad Hafeez is also a possible inclusion.
Pakistan: (possible) 1 Abid Ali, 2 Fakhar Zaman, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Asif Ali, 5 Sarfaraz Ahmed (capt/wk), 6 Haris Sohail / Shoaib Malik, 7 Imad Wasim, 8 Mohammad Hasnain, 9 Hasan Ali, 10 Shaheen Afridi, 11 Junaid Khan.
Pitch and conditions
Slightly unsettled and cooler weather is forecast for Friday, though it is expected to stay dry. The pitch is expected to be good, as ever.
Stats and trivia
There have been eight 400-plus scores at Trent Bridge since the start of 2016, more than at any other venue in the world.
Three of those totals have already been made in the 2019 season: 433 for 7 by Nottinghamshire v Leicestershire, and two in a single thriller in April – 417 v 406 between Notts and Lancashire.
These sides have met seven times at Trent Bridge, with England holding a 4-3 win-loss record.
“I think the England team have set a standard. I truly think we believe 500 is gettable one day.”
Mark Wood on his team’s batting prowess
“White ball cricket is not a bowler’s game, but credit to the groundsmen and the ECB, the wickets they are preparing are unbelievable … it’s like a batting paradise. You have to find a way to contain and take wickets.” Imad Wasim on the Pakistan bowlers’ woes