BRISTOL    -    Their defeat in the second one-day international to England extended Pakistan’s winless streak, but there were positive signs from which they will look to draw confidence heading into the third match on Tuesday.

Pakistan’s ODI record in 2019 has been poor so far. In 12 matches across three series, they have won only two and have lost nine. More worryingly, they’ve been winless in their last eight games, including a washout in the first ODI of the ongoing series.

With the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 pretty much at the doorstep, Pakistan have plenty of reason for concern. But things may not be as gloomy as the numbers suggest, for they put up a remarkable fight in the second ODI in Southampton, going down by only 12 runs in a chase of a mammoth 374 against some pretty good bowling.

One of big question marks over Pakistan’s readiness for the World Cup has pertained to their ability to score rapidly, but they seemed to do rather well in that department, thanks largely to Fakhar Zaman’s boundary-laced 138. But even Asif Ali and Sarfaraz Ahmed scored at well over run-a-ball. The positive signs notwithstanding, Pakistan will want to pull together in all departments to get some wins under their belt ahead of 30 May, when the World Cup gets underway.

Their job won’t be easy, however, seeing as they’re facing the side placed No.1 on the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s ODI team rankings. England are a mighty batting unit, with various batsmen capable of stealing the show on any given day. It was Jos Buttler who did the honours in the previous game with an unbeaten 55-ball 110.

The hosts’ bowling attack looks robust too, and they will be very pleased with David Willey’s three-over spell in the death in Southampton, during which he took 2/17 including the big wickets of Asif Ali and Imad Wasim.

From the little evidence so far, the attack looks further threatening when Jofra Archer plays, and it will be interesting to see whether they bring him back in for the third ODI after resting him for the second. His potential World Cup call-up hinges on how he performs in this series after all.

Jos Buttler, the middle-order batsman has been a vital cog of England’s power-hitting renaissance. He has claimed five of the 10 fastest centuries scored by English batsmen in ODI history, the latest of which was added in the previous game. He will be hungry to plunder more runs.

Hasan Ali has been Pakistan’s most prolific ODI bowler in the last two years with 49 wickets against his name at 24.12 alongside an economy rate of 5.03. He hasn’t really left his mark in his two international bowling innings on this tour: he took 1/42 in the T20I and then followed that up with 1/81 in the second ODI. He will want to make a mark against the leading team in the format. As per forecast, the weather should be pleasant with chances of rain unlikely. Since there isn’t expected to be much cloud cover, the pitch should be great for batting as is typically the case in Bristol.

SQUADS:-  ENGLAND: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood

PAKISTAN: Sarfaraz Ahmed (c), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abid Ali, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Imad Wasim, Yasir Shah, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Junaid Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Amir, Asif Ali.

Amir down with suspected chickenpox

An untimely bout of what is thought to be chickenpox has left Mohammad Amir’s World Cup hopes hanging on by the thinnest of threads.

Amir missed the second ODI against England in Southampton because of what team officials said was a viral infection and he is set to miss the third game in Bristol tomorrow as well. It has now emerged that the infection is likely to be chickenpox. Amir is understood to be in London with his family and not with the team currently.

How long it will take him to recover is not clear at the moment. But even if it is a week from when he originally fell ill, it leaves him with a monumental task to break into Pakistan’s 15-man squad. There are only two ODIs left in the series, on Friday and then Sunday. It is thought if he doesn’t recover in time for Friday’s game, it would be close to impossible for him to make it to the squad.

Amir was not part of Pakistan’s original World Cup squad but because teams have till May 23 to make changes, it was thought his initial exclusion was not final. He was brought along as part of the squad to face England and the series was very much seen as an opportunity for him to make a case for himself for World Cup selection.

He was in the XI for the first ODI at The Oval last week but the match was abandoned after 19 overs in which Pakistan batted first. He fell ill on Friday, ahead of the second ODI on Saturday. If he doesn’t make it, it will be the third World Cup he has missed since making his international debut in 2009 - he missed out in 2011 and 2015 because he was serving a five-year ban for his role in the Lord’s spot-fixing scandal of 2010.

Amir’s wicket-taking form in ODIs since the final of the Champions Trophy in 2017 has been poor. He has only five wickets to show in that time in 15 ODIs (including the washed out game at The Oval). He hasn’t leaked runs especially, however, and his economy rate of 4.58 in that period (5.28 if you exclude Zimbabwe and Hong Kong) assumed greater relevance in light of Pakistan’s bowling troubles in Southampton, where they conceded 373. Specifically the death-overs bowling was poor but the fast bowling generally since Pakistan have landed in England has become a growing concern for Mickey Arthur and Sarfaraz Ahmed. They have options ahead of tomorrow’s ODI and Junaid Khan is likely to return, as might Mohammad Hasnain.