England vs Pakistan Preview: Knight’s England brace for spirited Pakistan challenge

Pakistan (L) England (R) © Getty Images

In a bid to keep their semi-final hopes alive, the defending champions England will take on Pakistan at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch on Thursday, March 24. England saw off India and won a cliffhanger against the hosts in their last fixture to keep themselves alive in the tournament. On the other hand, Bismah Maroof’s side created history in their last match by ending their 18-game losing streak in World Cups.

What’s at stake

Heather Knight’s side is still in the race to the semis. A win on Thursday will bring them one step closer to the same. There’s all to play for as far England are concerned. In comparison, Pakistan, after their remarkable victory against the West Indies in a rain-marred affair, have also kept themselves in the contention. But the green brigade not only need to win both their remaining matches but will also have to depend on the other results to get through to the semi-finals.

The need for England’s batting to step up to the challenge

England have resurrected their dwindling campaign by two consecutive victories. But both the wins have been attained after hard fought struggles. They were made to sweat by the Indian bowlers while chasing a meagre 135 runs to win. And the story was no different against the White Ferns either.

Chasing 204 to win, England batters were under the pump throughout the run chase. And they somehow managed to cross the line eventually. After their opening fixture against Australia where they were taken for 310 runs, the English bowling attack pulled things back to a great degree in the tournament. They haven’t let any opposition cross the 250-run mark since then. But it is the average batting display that’s hurting the English unit.

With 233 and 208 runs respectively, Natalie Sciver and Tammy Beaumont are the only two English batters among the top 20 highest run-getters in the ongoing tournament. With both the remaining fixtures being must-win clashes, the four-time champions need to address their batting debacles soon.

ALSO READ: Keep Calm and Carry On, England

Spirited Pakistan

Meanwhile, Pakistan are on a high after their vivacious efforts in the last game that saw them pick up a historic win. The win against the Windies not only helped them get off the mark in the ongoing tournament but also ended their winless drought since the 2009 edition.

Making a comeback after facing constant drubbings is not easy. After their clash with the Stafanie Taylor’s side got reduced to a 20-overs affair, Pakistan were always going to struggle. With numerous power-hitters in their batting line-up, the shortened affair was always going to favour the Windies. But that didn’t happen.

Spinners led by Nida Dar strangled the West Indian batters. They used the wicket to their advantage and made life miserable for West Indies. Pakistan will again rely on their spinners to peg the England batters on Thursday. But their batters will also need to be circumspect about the same as their opponents have two good spinners at their disposal in Sophie Ecclestone and Charlie Dean.

The fact that Pakistan have never beaten England in ODIs ever is certainly a talking point but come Thursday it wouldn’t matter much considering the stage.

Players to watch out for:

Heather Knight: The England skipper has a liking for the Pakistan bowling attack. In nine ODIs against them, she has scored 351 runs at a phenomenal average of 70.20. Her outstanding record comprises one century and two half-centuries. The 31-year old has not batted the way she is usually known for thus far in the tournament. But with the kind of record she wields against Pakistan, this fixture couldn’t have come at a better stage for Knight.

Nida Dar: Nida Dar must be brimming with supreme confidence. And why shouldn’t she? It was her fiery four-wicket haul that saw her side trump West Indies. She made full use of the wicket in the rain-delayed encounter. But what stood out was the way she varied her flight and didn’t rely entirely on the wicket. Although her ODI numbers against England aren’t something to write home about, the momentum she has received from the last game might do the trick for her on Thursday.

What they said:

“ I think we have been under a little bit of pressure throughout the ongoing World Cup because it is such a tight tournament. But I think coming off two wins we’re feeling pretty confident and we’re in quite a good place. So yeah, looking forward to the challenge tomorrow,”

– Sophia Dunkley on whether England are under pressure ahead of their clash against Pakistan.

“We are not thinking about that. Right now we are just focusing on our team. We need to carry our winning momentum forward. We were waiting for it from a long time. So we don’t want to lose this momentum,”

– Bismah Maroof on Pakistan being a potential threat to England’s semi-final chances.

Numbers:

Head to head: Played 11 matches, England 10 – 0 Pakistan; 1 No Result

  • England’s Tammy Beaumont is the highest run-getter in the ODI history between the two sides. She has scored 484 runs in seven games, including three centuries and one half-century.

Predicted XI:

England: Tammy Beaumont, Danielle Wyatt, Heather Knight (c), Natalie Sciver, Amy Jones (wk), Sophia Dunkley, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Kate Cross, Charlie Dean, Anya Shrubsole

Pakistan: Muneeba Ali, Sidra Ameen, Bismah Maroof (c), Omaima Sohail, Nida Dar, Aliya Riaz, Fatima Sana, Sidra Nawaz (wk), Diana Baig, Nashra Sundhu, Anam Amin