England favourite but watch out for Pakistan
SO much points towards an England victory Wednesday night, but the ever-present element of unpredictability of Pakistan adds to this mouth-watering clash.
Logic says England.
Eoin Morgan's team is at home, is the only unbeaten semi-finalist and is riding a wave of unprecedented confidence in white-ball cricket.
England has won 14 and lost two (with one washout) of its past 17 50-overs matches in its own backyard.
It has also won 12 of its last 14 ODIs against Pakistan since September 2010 including a 7-1 advantage in games played in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah where conditions suited Pakistan.
England fears no one.
It boasts a super-charged batting line-up that is purring on all cyclinders except one and that looks likely to be fixed with out-of-form opener Jason Roy tipped to be replaced by Jonny Bairstow.
Joe Root (212 runs), Eoin Morgan (175), Alex Hales (151) and Ben Stokes (150) all sit among the top 11 run scorers this tournament.
Pakistan's first appearance on that list is Azhar Ali with 93 runs.
Pakistan's best chance of a major upset is in a low-scoring match.
A target above 260 would surely be too much for a batting line-up short on power-hitters and class.
To that end its battery of seam bowlers is England's greatest danger. Hasan Ali sits third on the wickets table with seven scalps from the preliminary rounds, having delivered some of the best balls of the tournament.
His 143km/h off-cutter to hit the top of Kusal Mendis' middle stump on Monday was a peach and his passion energises his team.
Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan and Mohammad Amir are all wicket-taking bowlers at any part of the innings. Hopefully for their sake their teammates have their catching gloves on!
England's overall depth looks too powerful, but don't be surprised if there's a hiccup along the way against a passionate Pakistan line-up.
Compared to last week, a heatwave has hit the UK. It's forecast to be partly cloudy in Cardiff on Wednesday. No rain. Max 23C.
ON THE PUNT
- JONNY Bairstow's inclusion for Jason Roy should help Joe Root. Wonderboy Root has walked to the crease in the third (Bangladesh), eighth (NZ) and first overs (Australia) of England's innings this tournament. The inclusion of his Yorkshire teammate Bairstow should mean Root enters the fray a little later at No.3 once the new ball has lost its shine. Root has top scored for England in two of its three preliminary games, is his team's best batsman and a strong tip to lead its scoring tonight. Most England Runs Tonight (TAB market): $3.50 Joe Root; $4 Alex Hales; $5 Jonny Bairstow; $5.50 Jason Roy, Eoin Morgan; $6.50 Ben Stokes; $8.50 Sam Billings; $9 Jos Buttler; $17 Moeen Ali.
- FAST bowlers Umesh Yadav, Morne Morkel and Nuwan Pradeep have been the leading wicket-takers in Group B games against Pakistan with three each. That tells us England quicks Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett are the biggest threats with the ball tonight. Both bang the ball hard into the pitch and get the sort of bounce that Pakistan's batsmen often find difficult to control. Tellingly, South African leggie Imran Tahir took 0-16 off four overs against Pakistan and maybe that means Sarfraz Ahmed and his teammates deal with Adil Rashid with more confidence than other teams. Wood ($4.50) is my pick. He can make the ball bounce like Plunkett and moves it more off the seam. Most England Wickets Tonight (TAB market): $4 Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett; $4.50 David Willey, Mark Wood, Steven Finn; $5 Jake Ball; $5.50 Ben Stokes; $6.50 Moeen Ali.
- HASAN Ali is a star. The right-arm seamer takes wickets by legitimately beating a batsman with movement through the air or off the pitch at pace - not caught on the boundary slogging. He's high on confidence and should win this market, though left-armer Junaid Khan has made a massive difference since replacing the injured Wahab Riaz after Pakistan's opening game. Mohammad Amir has bowled well but has just two wickets from 28.1 overs this tournament. Most Pakistan Wickets Tonight (TAB market): $4 Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali; $4.50 Junaid Khan, Shadab Khan; $5 Rumman Raees, Imad Wasim; $5.50 Mohammad Hafeez; $6.50 Shoaib Malik.
TALLY: +6.25 units