England are set to take on Pakistan in an historic series, as the two sides face off over the course of seven T20 matches.
For the first time in 17 years, England have travelled to Pakistan to compete in what may well feel like a set of warm-up matches ahead of this winter’s T20 World Cup in Australia.
Barely a year has passed since the last T20 World Cup, and the host nation hope to defend their title against 12 teams hungry for silverware - two the lead contenders will be England and Pakistan.
England will be desperate to go further than they managed in the UAE last year, as they bid to be the holders of both the ODI and T20 World Cup, while Pakistan will hope to rectify their loss to Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup final earlier this month.
Ahead of England’s upcoming series against Pakistan, here are three questions facing the side leading into the World Cup:
The Alex Hales question
Jonny Bairstow’s replacement for the T20 World Cup has been confirmed to be Alex Hales and the upcoming seven fixtures against Pakistan feel like the perfect opportunity to rebuild his reputation.
Previously, Hales tested positive for recreational drugs in the build-up to the 2019 World Cup which led to what the then white-ball captain, Eoin Morgan, described as a ‘complete breakdown in trust’
This came after he had already been suspended due to his involvement in the Bristol nightclub altercation with Ben Stokes two years previously.
Hales’ scandals and ‘trust issues’ resulted in a three-year exile from the squad, but his stellar recent form is hard to ignore.
Coming fifth in The Hundred highest run scorers with 259, he had an overall average of 28.78 in his 11 innings as well as hitting two 50s for the Trent Rockets.
He has 10,000 T20 runs to his name as well as seven international centuries and England’s first ever T20 centurion is now back.
If he continues the destructive form he is currently exhibiting, the likes of Liam Livingstone may well struggle to fit back in, while Jason Roy could be permanently excluded from an opening role he used to absolutely dominate.
Moeen Ali’s captaincy
Jos Buttler will sit out of the first few fixtures while he recovers from an ankle injury, giving Moeen Ali the chance to captain the squad once more.
Ali, who’s family migrated from Pakistan after the Second World War, has spoken of his excitement at leading the squad in what’s set to be an historic and remarkable series.
He said: “I’m somebody that wants to play cricket in every nation, and Pakistan especially, after so long.”
Ali’s involvement in the 2020 PSL was because he said he wanted to help in ‘putting Pakistan cricket back on the map’ and he sees this upcoming tour as an extension of that: “I wanted to be part of this. It’s a big thing when England comes to Pakistan, more than any other country, England’s the one that the Pakistan fans really love to see coming here.”
Not only will Ali’s captaincy role be a huge personal milestone for the all-rounder, but with the World Cup fast approaching, the presence of another well-respected captaincy figure will be invaluable to a team in pursuit of more silverware.
Additionally, depending on Buttler’s recovery, Ali’s role as captain may prove crucial if he is to take on the mantle for a longer period of time than first imagined.
The never-ending list of bowlers
This summer has seen a strong group of players missing from the squad due to injury, with their replacements doing their bit to keep up England’s white-ball supremacy - a feat which has seen mixed success with losses to both South Africa and India).
Chris Woakes and Mark Wood have both been named in the squad to face Pakistan, but with the continued rise of David Willey, Richard Gleeson and Reece Topley, fighting for places has become a near impossible task.
This competition will once again heat up when Jofra Archer and Chris Jordan return from their respective injuries.
The likes of Hundred stars Tom Helm and Luke Wood, who are both as yet uncapped, will find themselves fighting hard to prove they deserve a firm place in the England squad.
However, as English bowlers are notoriously susceptible to injuries, having a large pool of backup players to choose from could prove vital. Even more so if they are granted the chance to play against potential World Cup opponents in the upcoming series and gain further invaluable experience.
While the squad for the T20 World Cup has been confirmed, as was seen last year, last minute call-ups are still a distinct possibility, especially on the bowling front, and all bowlers, returning and new, must use the next few fixtures to demonstrate why they are deserving of their place in a highly competitive field.