NOTTINGHAM   -   England made good on their tags as favourites at this ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup with a crushing win against South Africa. In contrast, Pakistan lost their 11th straight one-day international when they were blasted apart by West Indies in their opening match.

England will be feeling very confident against Pakistan in this match having soundly beaten them 4-0 in the ODI series before this tournament got underway. With Ben Stokes getting runs, wickets and spectacular catches, and Eoin Morgan, Jason Roy and Joe Root also making fifties they will be thinking they can repeat the results of the very recent past.

For Pakistan, there are some serious question marks. Against the West Indies they were battered and bruised by the short ball, with Andre Russell and Oshane Thomas both having them hopping around. With England likely to play Liam Plunkett, Jofra Archer and potentially Mark Wood, there will be a good chance that a number of short balls at very decent pace will be heading their way.

In the past, it has been the Pakistan’s bowling attack that has made up for batting shortfalls but in that ODI series against England last month, they ended up conceding more than 340 four times in a row. Against the West Indies, an albeit, small total was chased down inside 14 overs. More is needed from their attack if they are to turn things around.

No bowler has taken more wickets in ODIs since the last World Cup than Adil Rashid. He has seven four-wicket hauls and two five-fors. Wickets in the middle overs are so important in modern ODI cricket, and Rashid provides just that. If he ends up towards the top of the wicket-taking charts at the end of this tournament, England will have gone a long way to winning it.

Pakistan have a leg-spinner of their own and his job will be to take wickets once the second PowerPlay gets underway. Shadab is not a big turner of the ball, but he is wily and can take wickets. He has an excellent ODI bowling average of 27.74 and an economy rate of under five an over.

The forecast is for a cloudy but dry day in Nottingham so there may be some swing early on. The pitch at Trent Bridge is said to be amongst the most run-laden in the world cricket right now, there could be a high score here if one of these teams fires with the bat.

It will be a task cut out for the bowlers, but more so for the Pakistan cricket team as it was revealed that their second match of the tournament, against England, will be played on the World record strip. For England, it is a piece of pretty good news as they had twice broken the world record on this very strip with their scores of 481 for 6 against Australia last year and 444 for 3 against Pakistan back in 2016.

Well, the venue is the same where Pakistan marked their World Cup 2019 opener against West Indies with an abysmal batting performance of 105-all out. However, it is two strips away from the one that was used on Friday in Trent Bridge and is considered to be the best batting surface in the world at the moment.

Despite the bad news for Pakistan who have the experience of being on the wrong end against the English side on this strip, bowling coach Azhar Mahmood is confident that the bowlers have the ability to put forth a strong show against the hosts in the crucial tie.

“I am hearing that people talking about 480/500 score on this wicket, let me tell you that England has to play 300 deliveries to score that much and we just need 10 good deliveries, 10 wicket taking deliveries. And this bowling line has the ability to bowl England out for under 300,” Azhar told journalists at Trent Bridge on sidelines of Pakistan team’s training session.

For England, the headache will be their bowling selection. They will be looking to add Mark Wood into their attack in a bid to outplay Pakistan once again with short deliveries. After a good show from Jofra Archer, England are unlikely to bench him. So probably Liam Plunkett will be the one to make way for Wood, although it would be his sheer misfortune to miss the match.

“I think playing Wood will be discussed,” Graham Thorpe, the England batting coach, said. “We’re aware of what went on here on Friday. We saw West Indies go pretty hard at Pakistan. The captain will make a call on it.”