England to make it an imperfect ten for Pakistan
Pakistan (4/6) are right in the middle (but they'll hope it's the end) of a nightmare run of form and England (6/5) will hope to further compound their misery by inflicting a tenth straight defeat in all formats of the game on them.
England haven't actually played a limited overs match since the end of November, which is pretty much like a year in cricket terms, but with several players looking over their shoulder thanks to players doing well in the recent Lions match I feel a few will have points to prove and can lead Andy Flower's team to a win in Dubai.
One of those players who needs a big score is Joe Denly (4/1 top England batsman), the opener hasn't exactly set the world alight in his fledgling international career, yes he got a half century against the Aussies (in a game where Australia were probably taking pity on England after beating them in six ODI's prior to that match), but since then he's only got over 30 once in six innings, with yet another South African in Craig Kieswetter knocking on the door for an England cap he must start posting regular totals on the board if he is to hold off the threat of the Somerset batsman.
Eoin Morgan's (11/2 top England batsman) place should be secure especially after his sublime two half centuries in the Champions Trophy which helped England to unexpected wins, he then smashed an 85 in the first Twenty20 against South Africa in the recent successful tour that the Three Lions had.
Luke Wright (5/1 top England batsman) is overdue a knock after going 15 innings without a half century, and even then his last big score of 71 was only against the Netherlands (I forget how that match went), the Sussex all-rounder can quite often give quick-fire spells where he'll get 20/30 from a small amount of deliveries but it's his shot selection that sometimes finds him wanting, he helped his cause with another of those bursts against the Lions but still needs to find that level of consistency.
A player who certainly has that consistency and seems to be getting better with age is Paul Collingwood (6/1 top England batsman); the captain is one of only a handful of England players who is an absolute must in the starting XI at any format of the game and can always be relied upon to get the Three Lions out of a hole as he did time and time again in the tour of South Africa.
The skipper will hope he won't need to get England out of any bother on Friday and can lead the team to a confidence boosting win ahead of the World Twenty20 in a couple of months.
There's no reason why England can't do the business, after all Pakistan are woefully short of confidence and they are also without some of their star players for one reason or another.
The ridiculous actions of Shahid Afridi in the recent Twenty20 against Australia has seen him banned for two games; the all-rounder, for some unkown reason, bit the ball and was immediately questioned by the match referee following the game, Afridi claimed he was smelling the ball! Obviously that excuse didn't wash and he was banned straightaway.
One of the bright lights from the otherwise depressing tour of Australia for Pakistan was Mohammad Asif who took six wickets in four ODI's, but the fast bowler is barred from entering Dubai because of a drugs incident in 2008, the 27 year old was caught at Dubai airport with opium on him and was detained for 19 days, the PCB tried to overturn the ban, but to no avail.
Wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal has been dropped after some shoddy performances Down Under.
Shoaib Malik (11/2 to top score for Pakistan) will captain the team in Afridi's absence while Sarfraz Ahmed (14/1 top Pakistan bat) will stand behind the stumps, Mohammad Talha (5/1 top Pakistan bowler) could step in to replace Asif.
James Anderson is England's only noticeable absentee, Stuart Broad (3/1 top England bowler) and Ryan Sidebottom (4/1) the bowlers to lead the attack, the pitch might favour spin more though so Graeme Swann (7/2) could feature prominently.
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