Pakistan play for pride in third ODI against England

Babar Azam's visitors keen to avoid series whitewash in Birmingham on Tuesday

Pakistan will be looking for a consolation prize when they take on a weakened England side in the third and final ODI of their series in Birmingham on Tuesday, having already lost the first two matches.

Babar Azam's visitors were hoping for an easier time against a second, or even third, string England side missing the entire first-choice squad that was forced into quarantine before the series began following a Covid-19 outbreak within the camp.

But the hosts have proven to be more than adequate for the men in green. Fast bowler Saqib Mahmood wrecked Pakistan's batting in the first match, helping dismiss them for 141 and setting up a nine-wicket win.

The second match was a closer contest. Pakistan quick Hasan Ali picked up five wickets to rock the home team's line-up before fifties from Phil Salt and James Vince took the total to 247 at Lord's. That total proved to be enough as an all-round bowling performance secured a 52-run series clinching win.

That means there will be a lot riding on the final match of the series for both teams.

England's surprising dominance has not gone unnoticed, with regular captain Eoin Morgan applauding the youngsters.

After the win at Lord's, Morgan tweeted: "15 of the current squad in isolation. Buttler and Archer injured. What Ben Stokes and the team have achieved is incredible. Looking forward to watching the next game!"

For Lewis Gregory, who was player of the match in the second ODI after scoring 40 and taking three wickets, now is the time to enjoy the limelight.

"It's been really exciting. What's gone on isn't ideal but it has given us guys an opportunity to show what we're capable of. There's a lot of people watching," Gregory said.

"To say you've played for your country at the home of cricket is a special moment and the crowd was fantastic, they really got going after a day on the sauce!

"But this England one-day team is difficult to break into. The guys who are in there are difficult to get ahead of. All we can do is put in a performance and put our hands up when the chance comes.

"The world is very strange at the moment, injuries can be around the corner and Covid is around the corner. There could be plenty of opportunities."

For Pakistan, it is a simple case of putting up a better performance with the bat. Their struggles can be boiled down to one critical issue - the lack of runs from star batsmen Babar and Mohammed Rizwan. The captain made 0 and 19 while the wicketkeeper batsman has made 13 and five.

Their poor form has put extra burden on the fragile and untested middle and lower order, which has been greatly exploited by English bowlers.

A change in the XI is expected. The most enticing option will be left-arm spinner and batting all-rounder Mohammad Nawaz, who has been in good form of late. Wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed could be a good addition to the team as well, adding stability to the batting line-up.

Updated: July 12th 2021, 3:47 PM