England were on cloud nine. They thrashed Sri Lanka 3-0 in the three-match T20I series, then claimed the ODIs 2-0, despite the final match called off due to rain after the visitors were dismissed for 166 in Bristol. Elsewhere, their footy friends are also doing extremely well, reaching the semis of the Euro 2020. (ENG-PAK LIVE BLOG HERE)
Then, some 48 hours before the start of the limited-overs series against Pakistan, COVID-19 hit their camp, forcing the entire team to go into isolation even as the UK started to get life back to normal with sporting events like Wimbledon and Euro 2020 seeing capacity crowd. Last week, ECB even announced that the third ODI match of the series will have 80 per cent capacity.
Now, England are working on a "knife edge" after seven members, including three players, tested positive for coronavirus. "It's been a mad 24 hours... We got the news we feared last night of a bigger spread," director of cricket Ashley Giles.
The unfortunate development also forced England to name a new squad, featuring nine uncapped players. And it will be led by Ben Stokes, who's only getting back to some action from an injury lay-off. It's a crisis. But England will see it as an opportunity to test their bench strength. After all, they are the reigning world champions.
"It's a great opportunity to play on the biggest stage, and for most of the players selected it's not necessarily something they would have been expecting 24 hours ago," Giles added.
For Pakistan, it's a golden chance to improve their ODI record in England. They defeated England at Trent Bridge during the 2019 ICC World Cup, but it was after losing two bilateral series. Also, they have lost 30 ODIs against England in England in 48 outings. Time to catch up.
Almost all of Pakistan's touring members were in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the second-leg of Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2021, which was won by the Mohammad Rizwan-led Multan Suntans.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Cricket Board in a statement, that the visitors are satisfied with the safety protocols in place in England.
This will be their 89th meeting in ODIs. England lead the head-to-head record, 53-32. There were three no results. The last time Pakistan were in England for a bilateral series in 2019, they lost 4-0 after rain forced a no result. But Pakistan beat England in their last meeting, by 14 runs in the 6th match of the 2019 World Cup. Of course, despite that setback, England won the tournament.
Match and telecast details
Match: 1st ODI match between England and Pakistan
Date: July 8 (Thursday), 2021
Time: 5:30 PM IST/ 01:00 PM Local
Venue: Sophia Gardens, Cardiff
TV Channels: Sony Sports Network in India; Ten Sports (LIKELY) in Pakistan; Sky Sports in UK; ESPN, Willow TV in USA; SuperSport in South Africa
Live Streaming: SonyLIV
England (New): Ben Stokes, Jake Ball, Danny Briggs, Brydon Carse, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Lewis Gregory, Tom Helm, Will Jacks, Daniel Lawrence, Saqib Mahmood, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Matt Parkinson, David Payne, Phil Salt, John Simpson, James Vince.
The original squad: Squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy, Joe Root, Sam Billings, Moeen Ali, Sam Curran, David Willey, Tom Curran, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood, Liam Livingstone, Chris Woakes, Liam Dawson, George Garton, Tom Banton.
Pakistan: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan (vc), Abdullah Shafique, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi, and Usman Qadir.