Quite simply, it’s crunch time for England. It’s time to find out whether this team really is the one so many have tipped them to be. A place in the ICC Champions Trophy beckons.
Standing in England’s way is the formidable presence of Pakistan and it’ll be doing everything it can to spoil the home team’s party. England will be considered big favourites, but that’s what makes this match-up so interesting.
For Pakistan, its unpredictability could be considered as its biggest strength. The home side won’t know what it is going to be up against and if Pakistan play to the levels of which it’s capable, then it’s going to be one hell of a match.
Pakistan can beat anyone when it is in form, we all know that. And given England’s position as the home team, in form, with everyone backing them, Pakistan will be even more dangerous. It’ll have nothing to lose and will go out there throwing caution to the wind.
But despite this, I firmly believe England is ready for this. It is its time. It is at the top of its game and I reckon we could see a performance to remember. I heard someone mention their inexperience the other day, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that this side has essentially been here before.
Less than 18 months ago, we were in the semi-final of the ICC World Twenty20 2016 and we certainly didn’t baulk at that challenge. And I expect the lessons it learnt in that final loss to be on display in the knockout part of this competition.
Both, our batting and bowling units, are on fire at the moment and I can see no signs of that slowing down. It’s been so good to see our bowlers getting in on the action because for so long, quite deservedly, the batsmen have been getting all the plaudits. But now the balance is there and that’s the hallmark of a truly great side.
The only real question mark is on Jason Roy, and for me, that’s a simple one: he plays. I completely understand there’s a fantastic player waiting in the wings in Jonny Bairstow, but one of the real qualities of this team is the confidence and support they put upon one another.
Yes, Jason isn’t getting the runs he’d like at the moment, but at some point he will. Of that there’s no doubt. This is the same player who ran the show in that aforementioned ICC World Twenty20 2016 semi-final last year, scoring 78 against New Zealand – his first 50 off just 26 balls! This is the same player who scored 162 against Sri Lanka pretty much a year ago to the day. I like seeing game changers in a team and Jason is exactly that.
From the outside, this is a happy England team and I would keep it the same.
In any case, to have a player as good as Jonny not in the team so far shows just how much talent we have right now, and that’s hugely exciting. And going by England’s training session on Tuesday, all signs point to a Roy-Bairstow switch.
Whoever plays, they’ll have to contend with a cracking Pakistan seam attack. And the pitch in Cardiff has the potential to do just enough, so there’s a real possibility that the victor of this match will be the side who comes out on the right side of the toss.
Not that either side will be thinking that way. Both sides will be quite rightly thinking they can earn themselves a place at The Oval on Sunday.
It’s been a different route to this position for both teams; England unbeaten and Pakistan regrouping after a shaky start, but that won’t matter one bit.
It’ll come down to who wants it more and who performs under the pressure. And we as supporters get to watch it all unfold in front of us. I can’t wait!