The first ODI of the series at the Oval was that kind of a day where rain interruptions frustrated the fans, players, and the ground staff. However, in the mere 19 overs of play in which Pakistan tentatively managed 80 runs for the loss of 2 wickets, Jofra Archer once again pressed his case forward emphatically for a WorldCup spot. He was rapid and bowled the nagging length, persistently in the channel, creating all sorts of problems for the Pakistani batsmen who were seldom able to play jailbreak shots but the momentum of the innings was stymied consistently by rain and Archer. He swung the ball viciously and tested Imam-ul-Haq's temperament in particular in his stunning four overs spell in which he conceded just six runs.
Pakistan batsmen have been tested all end up in damp conditions and got the first experience of the stern test that lies ahead in this ODI series when they will take guard once again this Saturday at Southhampton. There is a forecast for rain and this could be the order of the day for upcoming WorldCup as well. Whoever wins the toss would prefer to bowl and exploit the likely damp conditions that will offer pace and purchase from the wicket.
Archer, who regularly clocked 90mph, will be ready to pick from where he left in the first ODI alongside Woakes, Plunkett and Stokes who are all fired up to cement places for the World Cup.
Pakistan will be wary of bowling friendly conditions and would want to acclimatise. Their pace battery has got the variety to topple any opposition but there are some question marks for a few spots as the once enigmatic Mohammad Amir is yet to rediscover his mojo. To his credit, he has maintained an impressive economy of 4.78 which helps push his case forward. Mohammad Hasnain is raw and an unfinished article but so was Shaheen Afridi when he put on the green shirt but he has quickly become Pakistan's go-to-bowler for finding breakthroughs. It may be overwhelming for a 19-year-old to be fast-tracked into the system and could all be happening too soon for him after he mesmerized everybody with his hostile pace in his PSL debut earlier this year.
A selection conundrum is brewing in the 11th hour before the World Cup and this has triggered competition for places among Hasnain, Junaid Khan and maybe Faheem who will be seen jostling for positions. Moreover, Abid Ali's exclusion from the first ODI is bemusing considering he is very short of experience at the apex level of cricket. Abid would be yearning to get some runs under his belt, and if the current opening combination continues to fail, he might just get a game or two. Ageas Bowl isn't exactly a bowling paradise so batsmen could breathe better tomorrow. Jason Roy and Moeen Ali could be given a go while Shoaib Malik has rejoined the team after a 10-day hiatus. It remains to be seen who will miss out to create room for the veteran.
England: W, L, W, L, W
Pakistan: L, L, L, L, L
Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes, Liam Plunkett
Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Sarfaraz Ahmed (c/wk), Shoaib Malik/Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Amir