After whitewashing Sri Lanka in the previous series, England will now be facing a sterner challenge as they take on a strong Pakistan side in a three-match ODI series. Ben Stokes will be leading the new-look English side in the absence of regular skipper Eoin Morgan.
Sophia Gardens in Cardiff will host the first ODI match of the series today. Pakistan have a great record while playing ODIs in Cardiff as they have never lost here. So far, they have played three ODI games at this venue out of which they won two, while one match ended in no result due to rain.
Babar Azam's side will look to draw confidence from their positive record at Sophia Gardens and perform well in the first ODI. Given that several frontline England players are missing the match, Pakistan will start the series as the favorites to win.
Pakistan beat England in the semi-finals of the 2017 Champions Trophy in Cardiff
The Pakistan team's last ODI match at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff took place on June 14, 2017. It was the all-important semi-final of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy. Sarfaraz Ahmed's men squared off against the English team in this high-octane clash.
The Pakistan skipper won the coin toss and elected to field first. Except for opener Alex Hales (13), all the other English top-order batsmen got off to good starts but failed to convert them into substantial scores. Jonny Bairstow (43) and Joe Root (46) fell near the half-century landmark.
Hasan Ali scalped the big wickets of Eoin Morgan (33) and Ben Stokes (34) in the middle order. The duo tried to dig in and play according to the situation but departed in the 30s. Eventually, the English team reached a modest total of 211 before they got all-out with one ball left in the innings.
Hasan Ali (3/35) was the wreaker-in-chief for Pakistan as he bowled magnificently in the middle overs to contain the big-hitting England batsmen. Junaid Khan (2/42) and Rumman Raees (2/44) also chipped in with useful contributions in the bowling department.
In reply, Azhar Ali (76) and Fakhar Zaman (57) gave Pakistan a perfect start in the chase. The pair put on a 118-run stand for the first wicket, the second-highest opening partnership for Pakistan in Champions Trophy history. Adil Rashid broke the stand by dismissing Fakhar Zaman in the 21st over. Soon after, Azhar Ali followed his opening partner and reached the pavilion having been dismissed by Jake Ball.
Pakistan completed the chase in 37.1 overs and won the game convincingly with eight wickets in hand. Babar Azam (38*) and Mohammad Hafeez (31*) remained unbeaten and finished the formalities for Pakistan. Hasan Ali deservedly won Player of the Match for his magnificent showing with the ball.