Pakistan begin their tour of England with a one-off T20 on Sunday followed by a five-match ODI series. Whatever any side does from now is geared towards getting their team combination right for the main event which begins at the end of this month – the World Cup – and England and Pakistan are no different.
The 15-member squads for the showpiece event are already out. But those are by no means the final squads as teams can change it until the 23rd of this month without needing approval from the ICC. For both England and Pakistan, the upcoming white-ball clashes will be an opportunity to see who among those outside the 15-member World Cup squad can squeeze into it after the bilateral engagements and who among those already picked can be dispensed with.
Both sides have a player who is a potential match-winner and gamechanger, coming into the World Cup mix around the same time – at the beginning of the year. Barbadian quick Jofra Archer had been threatening to break into England’s team the moment he became eligible after the qualification period was reduced from seven years to three earlier this year. Archer wasn’t made to wait long, making his ODI debut against Ireland on Friday.
Pakistan have put their faith in teenage quick Mohammad Hasnain after the 19-year-old clocked 151kph during the Pakistan Super League at the start of the year and impressed everyone with his pace and hostility. Both quicks offer a lot but will still need to perform well in the coming weeks and also stave off competition within the team as they aim to be regular members of the squad at the World Cup.
The 24-year-old is easily the fastest bowler in the England squad. He was not selected for the World Cup despite widely being regarded as a shoe-in. England players like Chris Woakes, David Willey and Mark Wood had stated it was unfair for a player to simply walk into a squad that had worked together for four years to become No1.
But Archer offers what no other player in the team does – 150kph pace throughout 10 overs and the ability to bowl pinpoint yorkers on demand at the death. The right-arm quick showed his class during the IPL while playing for Rajasthan Royals, picking up 11 wickets from 11 games and going at an economy of just 6.7 after bowling 43 overs.
If Archer has a memorable series against Pakistan, he could take up the spot of almost any England seam bowler simply because of what he brings to the table. And yes, he is no mug with the bat either.
He is just 19. And like Archer, he is a 6 foot-plus quick who can crank it up past 150 clicks. And surprisingly in a country like Pakistan famous for churning out super fast quicks by the dozens, Hasnain is the only bowler in the scheme of things who can claim to do so on a consistent basis.
Hasnain made a lasting impression while bowling for eventual champions Quetta Gladiators in the PSL, consistently clocking over 90mph and picking up 12 wickets from seven games. What worked in his favour was that his franchise skipper was Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed.
The young tearwary quick made the World Cup cut despite having played just three ODIs till date. But he will still have to show that he has what it takes to warrant a place in the World Cup Playing XI as Pakistan decided to omit a proven match-winner like Mohammad Amir from the 15-member squad and asked the left-arm ace to prove his match readiness during the England series. If Hasnain can do what he is capable of against England, he will almost certainly start the World Cup.
Archer is 24 and Hasnain 19. Both have next to no international experience under their belts. Yet, both can be the X-factor their respective teams covet.
The 24-year-old was hailed as the next big hope of Bangladesh’s pace unit when he made his international debut in 2014 but poor form, injuries and a suspension for an illegal bowling action has seen him fall to the fringes of the selectors’ plans.
Taskin only recently expressed his disappointment in missing out on Bangladesh’s 15-man World Cup squad but he is now hoping to seize his opportunity after being handed an ODI recall for the Ireland series.
Taskin, along with all-rounder Farhad Reza, were named as late additions to the Bangladesh squad for the ODI tri-series in Ireland also involving West Indies. He has also been named as one of Bangladesh’s standby players for the World Cup.
The pacer has not featured for Bangladesh in the 50-over format for almost two years now with his last appearance coming in June, 2017 against South Africa.
“There will be lots of pressure on me to perform in Ireland,” the pacer told ESPNcricinfo in an interview.
Bangladesh Team snapped at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport today (May 1) before heading to Dublin, Ireland ahead of the Ireland Tri-Nation Series. pic.twitter.com/xhYrqKiak3— Bangladesh Cricket (@BCBtigers) May 1, 2019
“I will have to do well. I am trying to reduce the pressure on me. I think if I stick to the right process, things will fall into place.
“It is my expectation to do well. I want to do well. My fans have always been positive, mostly, but it has nothing to do with them.”
The right-armed fast bowler had earlier been given an ODI recall for the recent series in New Zealand but an ankle injury put paid to his comeback hopes.
Now, Taskin is hoping to rediscover the form that made him such a promising prospect five years ago.
“I would also like to bowl like I did in the past. It is a tough challenge to come back into the team having not played so many matches. In cricket, sometimes when you lose your place someone else takes it and does well, so it is always hard to come back,” he stated.
So far in his ODI career, Taskin has picked up 45 wickets in 32 appearances with an average of 31.13.
The latest annual update from the ICC sees the results of the 2015-16 period completely removed while those from 2016-17 and 2018-19 will now carry a 50 per cent weightage in the calculations.
As such, India’s lead at the top of the Test rankings over second-placed New Zealand has now been cut down to just two rating points from the eight it was previously before the update was made.
In the only position change in the Test rankings, England have overtaken Australia to now occupy the fourth spot in the table. The two teams are set to meet in an Ashes series later in the summer once the 2019 ICC World Cup culminates in England.
England, meanwhile, remain the top dogs in the ODI rankings ahead of the 2019 World Cup on home soil. However, Eoin Morgan and his men now lead No2 ranked India by just two rating points following the latest update.
In order to maintain their No1 status at the start of the 2019 World Cup, England will need to first beat Ireland in the upcoming one-off ODI and then prevail over Pakistan in the five-match series by a margin of 3-2 or better.
In case England suffer a defeat to Ireland, they will need to then beat Pakistan by a margin of 4-1 or better to hold on their top ranking.
In the ODI rankings, South Africa have now leapfrogged New Zealand for the third spot while West Indies have moved ahead of Sri Lanka in seventh spot.