Nasser Hussain says new-look England ODI squad can push Test claims in Pakistan series

Nasser Hussain says England’s new-look ODI squad can use the matches against Pakistan to push their claims for Test selection against India this summer and then in the Ashes this winter.

England’s initial 16-man squad for the Pakistan ODIs was placed in isolation after a Covid-19 outbreak in the camp – but a replacement XI starred in Cardiff on Thursday as the hosts thumped Babar Azam’s men by nine wickets to move 1-0 up in the three-match series.

Zak Crawley – who has reached double figures just three times in his last 12 Test innings – hit 58 not out on his ODI debut, sharing an unbeaten second-wicket stand of 120 with Dawid Malan (68no), who played the most recent of his 18 Tests against India in August 2018.

Seamer Saqib Mahmood, who is uncapped at Test level, had earlier taken 4-42, including the wickets of Imam-ul-Haq and Babar for ducks in the first over of the match, to skittle Pakistan for 141.

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Sky Sports Cricket expert and former England captain Hussain said: “I actually think this series is about the red-ball game to a degree.


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“These players are not really going to break up the England ODI side, they’re not going to suddenly dislodge the likes of [Jason] Roy and [Jonny] Bairstow at the top of the order.

“But, looking ahead to the Tests, Crawley needs some runs and Malan needs some runs to maybe force his way back in.

“Mahmood looks like he could really be an option for the tour of Australia, with England looking for pace after the injury to Olly Stone. Those three certainly staked a claim in this game.”

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Key: Malan a better player than we thought

Malan scored a century in the Ashes Test at Perth in December 2017 but was then dropped by England in the home summer of 2018, with then national selector Ed Smith going on to suggest that the left-hander’s game was perhaps “better suited to overseas conditions”.

Malan has not played a Test since but is the top-ranked T20I batsman in the world, having passed fifty 12 times in 27 innings in that format, and now has two half-centuries in four ODI innings.

The 33-year-old also scored 199 for Yorkshire against Sussex in the LV= Insurance County Championship last month to push his case for the Tests against India, which start in August.

Sky Sports’ Rob Key said of Malan: “He has always been a very good player, but now we’re seeing him translate that into international cricket.

“There are some players whose game it just raises, whether that be because of the occasion or whatever it is. He is the epitome of that.

“He is a better player than any of us who have played against him in county cricket thought. Yes, he was a good player, but now he is becoming a serious player in international cricket. The way Malan played there will already be talk of him coming back into the Test team.”

Malan will also hope to help England to T20 World Cup glory in the UAE and Oman later this year, the competition having moved to those countries due to the high number of Covid cases in India.

Gregory targeting T20 World Cup spot

Somerset all-rounder Lewis Gregory is targeting that tournament, too, having been handed an ODI debut against Pakistan on Thursday and dismissing Mohammad Rizwan caught behind with a brilliant delivery after being entrusted with the new ball.

Gregory, who has played eight T20s for England so far, said: “It’s an opportunity to show what I can do and put my hand forward for selection in the T20 World Cup.

Restrictions have tightened and we have pretty much been stuck in our hotel rooms. We are keeping the social distancing to a max. It’s a little bit lonely at times but that’s the world we live in at the moment. I am not sure if we will be able to get in a room together on Sunday. Fingers crossed we can be together and watch us bring at home.

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“It’s been stop-start since I made my debut in T20 cricket [in New Zealand in 2019]. I have not showcased myself in the way I would have liked to in the games so far, not quite managed to click.

“But this is a huge opportunity to show what I capable of. Fingers crossed I can show that in the next couple of games.

“It’s a blessing in disguise sometimes to step away from [international cricket] and reflect. Take a step back and go ‘what I do in county cricket for Somerset works and all I have to do is do that and be that same cricketer to succeed.”

It was an absolute walloping. When I looked at the England side, I went ‘be careful, Pakistan’, because it is still a proper England side. This is not devaluing ODI cricket in any way. Pakistan had to be spot on, otherwise they were going to be turned over. They weren’t spot on, and they were turned over.

Nasser Hussain on England’s win in first ODI

Asked what England’s thumping win over Pakistan shows about the depth in white-ball cricket, Gregory added: “A lot of guys have been brought up on T20 cricket and you can see that in the way people go about their white-ball cricket. The standard is phenomenal.”

So, are the Vitality Blast and Royal London One-Day Cup at times undervalued compared to the likes of the Indian Premier League, Pakistan Super League and Big Bash League?

“I think so,” added Gregory, 29. “The standard in English cricket is very good and I think you see that across the Blast and One-Day Cup.

“The only thing with these other competitions is that a majority of their internationals are back playing which we don’t see a huge amount of with the schedule the England lads have.

“The wickets we play on are pretty flat so bowlers have to be spot on or they disappear. The standard definitely compares [to other competitions].”

Watch the second ODI between England and Pakistan, from Lord’s, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10.30am on Saturday.

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