Jofra Archer watch continues as England, Pakistan seek World Cup pointers
Right, here we go, then. England and Pakistan, all set to face off in five ODIs on their final run in to the World Cu… Oh, what's that? This is a T20 international? Okay, but that doesn't really fit the narrative. We'll have to see what we can do.
Yes, the vagaries of the international schedule have thrown up this context-free clash in a different format mere weeks before the start of a global 50-over tournament on these shores. No matter, there has been plenty of transference of T20 skills to modern ODI cricket, and this will be a chance for the players of both sides to let their hair down before things get serious, if nothing more.
Pakistan arrive in the UK ranked No. 1 in the world in T20Is, though their extraordinary run of 11 series wins in a row was checked in South Africa a couple of months ago. That winning sequence began in England three years ago, in another one-off match, when they battered the hosts by nine wickets - and they have had a pretty smooth start to their tour this time around, comfortably beating county opposition in both limited-overs formats.
Leading the way for the visitors will be , also No. 1 in the ICC rankings for T20I batsmen, who demonstrated his abilities by smashing at Leicestershire on Wednesday. A formidably good T20 unit, packed with stars of the PSL, Pakistan look like favourites for the match in Cardiff on Sunday, against what is very much a mix-and-match England.
Eoin Morgan's team will be pretty much the same as the one that edged past Ireland on Friday, with a host of regulars due back for the ODI series beginning next week. Defeat to Ireland, after picking their way through the Alex Hales-related debris, would have been another blow to their status as World Cup favourites but switching to T20 should loosen everyone up.
Three members of the pace attack who are competing for World Cup berths claimed T20I four-fors in the Caribbean earlier this year - Chris Jordan, David Willey and Tom Curran during a 3-0 thrashing - with every chance to impress the selectors worth seizing. And who isn't keen to see set loose in his premier format?
England WWWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
In the wake of Hales' removal from the World Cup squad, would appear to be the nearest direct replacement as reserve top-order batsman. However, after 27 appearances across the formats since his England debut in 2015, Vince has yet to play the innings that proves he belongs. In the Dublin ODI he played a couple of memorable shots only to be dismissed for 18 - a familiar tale, although on this occasion it did take a brilliant catch to see him off. With Jason Roy working his way back to fitness and Jonny Bairstow ready to return for the Pakistan ODIs, Vince may only have a few more chances to convince Ed Smith.
is so raw he wouldn't be out of place on a plate of sashimi. The latest Pakistani teenager to appear as if from nowhere for an international debut, Hasnain's pace is his key attribute - and the reason he was catapulted into the World Cup squad having only played three ODIs. He initially caught the eye in T20 after an impressive maiden PSL campaign for Quetta Gladiators in which he pushed 150-plus kph on the speed gun but has only played 14 games of senior cricket (and taken 19 wickets) in his entire career. A good run against England would increase his chances of having a significant impact at the World Cup.
Dawid Malan suffered a groin injury while batting at Malahide and won't take part - England have called up Sussex's uncapped opener as cover. Ben Duckett looks likelier to play, however, and make his T20I debut alongside Archer and Ben Foakes. Jordan, a first pick in this format, will probably replace one of Curran or Liam Plunkett.
England: (possible) 1 James Vince, 2 Ben Duckett, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Joe Denly, 6 Ben Foakes (wk), 7 David Willey, 8 Adil Rashid, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Chris Jordan, 11 Tom Curran
Imam-ul-Haq and Hasnain featured in the XI against Leicestershire and could both be given T20I debuts. Asif Ali will be looking to push his case for World Cup selection but Shoaib Malik is not available, having returned to Pakistan for personal reasons. Mohammad Amir (also currently outside the World Cup 15) and Junaid Khan offer further left-arm options in the pace attack.
Pakistan: (possible) 1 Fakhar Zaman, 2 Babar Azam, 3 Imam-ul-Haq/Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Haris Sohail, 5 Asif Ali, 6 Sarfaraz Ahmed (capt/wk), 7 Faheem Ashraf, 8 Imad Wasim, 9 Hasan Ali, 10 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 11 Mohammad Hasnain
Pitch and conditions
The pitch at Cardiff is generally pretty good for scoring in white-ball games - not to mention the first domestic first-class match of the season there, which yielded 1390 runs and just 19 wickets. England have occasionally been tempted to change their two-spinners formula here thanks to the short, straight boundaries. The forecast is for minimal chance of rain but temperatures barely out of single figures.
Stats and trivia
Pakistan won the last T20I between these teams but overall England have a 9-4 record (with one tie).
Before defeat to South Africa in February, Pakistan had won nine consecutive T20 internationals - at the time the second-longest streak of victories behind Afghanistan's 11.
After winning Man of the Match on Test debut last year and again after his first ODI appearance on Friday, Foakes has a shot at becoming the first player to complete the treble.
\"It went all right. Probably not the pitch I would have hoped for, but a good debut nevertheless.\"
\nJofra Archer is probably hoping for a bit more pace in the Cardiff deck