Ed Hawkins takes a look at the opening T20 and says the tourists are a strong bet if they put England under pressure in the chase at Old Trafford on Friday evening...
"The toss is key. Pakistan have won only six times in the last three years (24 matches) when bowling first. But when they bat first they have five wins in 13"
England v Pakistan
Live on Sky Sports
Double bubble for England. Their big-name players are missing with Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, Joe Root and Ben Stokes unavailable. The churn rather renders their four-straight series' successes irrelevant.
Eoin Morgan, of course, will lead and he will lean heavily on Jonny Bairstow's fast starts. But England have been spared a decision to make on his opening partner - the old head Jason Roy is injured so coming man Tom Banton will play. The brilliant Dawid Malan should bat at No 3 but don't hold your breath (England could well shoehorn in Joe Denly). Big things will be expected of Sam Billings after his strong performances in the ODI series against Ireland.
With Stokes absent, Lewis Gregory has the chance to stake a claim as a strongman. Adil Rashid aside, Pakistan will fancy taking on England's pace attack.
Possible XI Bairstow, Banton, Malan, Morgan, Billings, Moeen, Gregory, Jordan, Willey, Rashid, Mahmood
Pakistan look strong
Pakistan's form has fallen off a cliff in the last two years since coach Mickey Arthur's departure. They were the No 1-rated side in the world but their 2-0 defeat of Bangladesh in January ended a sequence of four straight series losses. They have won only three of their last 11.
But there looks little wrong with the balance of their XI. This is Babar Azam's best format and he should open with the impressive Fakhar Zaman. Power hitting comes in the form of Iftikhar Ahmed and Imad Wasim.
Imad is probably their most important player. His spin partnership with Shadab Khan accounts for 31 wickets in the last two years at miserly rates. Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and the tyro Muhammad Hasnain are a pace attack of which England could end up envious.
Possible XI Babar, Fakhar, Hafeez, Shoaib, Iftikhar, Imad, Rizwan, Shadab, Afridi, Rauf, Hasnain
2019 England 175-3 (Morgan 57*, Imad 1-24) chased Pakistan 173-6 (Babar 65, T Curran 1-23)
2016 Pakistan 139-1 chased England 135-7 (Wahab 3-18)
Overall England 11 Pakistan 4
Bat first and attack
There have been seven T20 international at Old Trafford, the first 12 years ago, but only five produced results. Four were won by the chaser. The last three first-innings scores (starting in 2015 with 1-2 denoting match won by side batting first or second) read: 159-2/135-2/191-1. Of more importance might be the last ten domestic totals at the venue: 142-2/162-1/151-1/130-2/189-1/185-1/154-1/190-2/176-1/157-1. From those numbers around 8.7 an over should be the target for the side batting first.
There is a 14% chance of rain from 18.00 after persistent showers earlier in the day. Don't be surprised if the start is delayed and a couple of overs are shaved off. Once underway, though, there shouldn't be interruptions.
Pakistan to set it up
Doi we really want to be betting a reserve England team at [1.60]? No. thought not. Bearing in mind that this is the sort of price you would expect proven good T20 sides to go off at, it's a bit of a stinker.
Pakistan are [2.50]. At least you know you're getting close to their strongest XI. And you also know that they are liable to be brilliant or baffling.
Where Pakistan will expect to win the game is through the economy rates of Imad and Shadab. With eight potential overs available from those two, miserly rates over the last two years say that England are not going to bust more than 6.6 an over. By contrast, England might use Moeen Ali who has an economy rate of 9.3 on the same filter.
This is one of those examples where it's hard to justify England as standout favourites. Both teams could prove to be well-matched and that rates Pakistan as the wager. But there's a caveat. The toss is key. Pakistan have won only six times in the last three years (24 matches) when bowling first. But when they bat first they have five wins in 13, not surprising considering their spin options.
Keep eye on Babar and Malan
As discussed on Cricket...Only Bettor (below), Babar Azam at 2/1 and Dawid Malan at 4/1 (both Sportsbook) feature as two of the most reliable T20 batters.
Babar will be expected to translate fluent yet frustrating form into cash in this format while Malan, bizarrely, can't be sure of his place. Not that it matters for the wager because if he doesn't play he doesn't cost.
Brilliant Babar and marvellous Malan? This week on Cricket...Only Bettor
Back Pakistan if they bat first [2.50] or better (3pts)