Who: Pakistan vs England
When: Saturday, November 11, 2pm (08:30 GMT)
Where: Eden Gardens, Kolkata
Pakistan captain Babar Azam has fired back at critics with his side on the verge of World Cup elimination in India.
The hosts’ near neighbours must humiliate the holders, England, at Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Saturday if they are to have any chance of reaching the semifinal stage.
The 29-year-old has come under fire for both his batting and captaincy.
“I have not performed the way I should have in the World Cup, that’s why people are saying that I am under pressure,” he said.
“Over the last two and a half or three years I was the one who was performing for the side and leading the team.
“It seems everyone has an opinion on me – he should be like this, or like that.
“If someone really wants to advise me, I think everyone has my number, but I guess it is easy to give advice on TV.”
Pakistan started the tournament with two wins, against the Netherlands and Sri Lanka. A four-match losing streak has cost them.
Defeats by India and Australia were manageable. The next two defeats against Afghanistan and South Africa left them in despair.
Only the brilliance of Fakhar’s 126* from 81 balls against New Zealand in their last match has kept them alive in the tournament at this stage.
A dramatic result in both sides’ final group stage match is not out of the question.
England stormed to victory in the 2019 final against New Zealand. But the wave they rode four years ago has sucked them back out to sea in India.
Their 2023 campaign – just two wins and six losses – has been disastrous and Jos Buttler’s side must now win the final group-stage match to qualify for the Champions Trophy.
Pakistan’s biggest opponent will not be the defending champions but the scale of the net run rate reverse they must produce to progress.
A victory would take them level on points and wins with New Zealand but defeating England by a stunning margin is their only hope of claiming fourth spot.
This means batting first and taking a huge total before skittling England cheaply with a margin of 287 runs or more.
Throughout their cricketing history Pakistan, World Cup winners in 1992, have had a reputation as the team for the improbable – the odds and the statistics are heavily against them this time though.
Their highest total against England is 361 at Southampton in 2019.
If they were to replicate that then they would need to bowl the English out for 74 or fewer.
“It’s not like this matter is not in the back of the mind. It’s in our mind and we will try to do it,” said Azam.
“But we can’t just go in and start firing blindly – we want that but with proper planning, how we want to play the first 10 overs, then the next 20 – how we have to achieve that target.
“There are a lot of things in this, like partnerships, which player will stay in the pitch for how long.
“We can do this and we have planned for this.”
England are already licking their wounds.
Their Test captain, Ben Stokes, needs surgery on his knee but has put off returning home to help the struggling side.
Buttler replaced Eoin Morgan as white-ball captain in 2022 and he, like Azam, has faced criticism for team and toss selection in India.
Champions Trophy qualification will be scant reward, or indeed respite, but it is at least a motivation for a side in desperate need of focus.
“It’s great to be heading there with something on the line,” Buttler said of the match in Kolkata.
“We’re not playing for what we wanted to be playing for, but it’s a really vital match for us in the grand scheme of things.”
The teams have faced each other 88 times in one-day internationals.
Pakistan have won 32 while England have won 56.
There’s never been a draw – but that wouldn’t be of any use to either now.
England have won the last three encounters in their home series in 2021.
It was a virtual C-team fielded by England due to COVID-19 absentees in the full team and the Lions squad, as well.
Pakistan’s last victory was in 2019 at the World Cup.
It was a 14-run win at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.