England begin their summer against Pakistan with what should be an entertaining one-off Twenty20 International in Cardiff on Sunday.
With the main focus over the next month being getting into shape for the home World Cup, this T20 clash at Sophia Gardens will act as a brash warm-up but it also give plenty of players the opportunity to get their games in good nick for what lies ahead.
However, that is not to say either side will be taking this showdown lightly as the chance to put down an early marker in the shortest form of the game will not only boost morale but give an early indication as to what sort of form some key men are in ahead of the huge summer.
England’s limited-overs skipper Eoin Morgan will also be well aware of the more pressing matters of getting his side ready for the one-day challenges that are to come, but he will still want to start the home schedule with a win.
England are in good T20 form, having won their last four games, while the tourists, in contrast, have lost two of their last three T20I’s, although they did get the better of South Africa by 27 runs last time out.
However, Pakistan are still officially the number one-ranked T20 side in the world, with England sitting in third behind South Africa in the table. Not that Morgan and co will pay too much attention to that before the toss and, with several keen to take their chance on the international stage, expect someone – possibly Joe Denly – to enjoy a big score.
The visitors did win the last time they took on England away in this format, triumphing by nine wickets at Old Trafford in 2016. That was three years ago, though, and much has changed since, not least the fact England now boast the likes of the aforementioned Denly, James Vince and Ben Duckett among their big-hitting squad, all with added desperation of trying cement their places going forward.
The overall match odds reflect the fact England, albeit far from full strength, are likely to be boosted by home advantage and will want to start the summer off as they mean to go on.
A narrow win for Morgan’s men, therefore, does look on the cards but expect Pakistan, who boast some fearsome batsmen in the shape of Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman to name just two, to run them close.
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