Angus Fraser in Lahore: Conditions make case for Prior to top order

Following the loss of Michael Vaughan, Simon Jones and Ashley Giles to injury, and with several of their leading players looking jaded after an arduous Test series, it would be tempting for England to be dismissive about the coming five one-day matches against Pakistan. But with the World Cup now only 15 months away, and England having just 35 limited-over matches in which to find the game plan that will transform them from outsiders into winners, every one-day game must have a purpose.

Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, and Vaughan, the captain, will have a good idea of the team they would like to select for their first match in the West Indies, but there are still three or four places in the squad to be claimed. Chris Tremlett, Gareth Batty and Owais Shah may come into the reckoning in India, but only if Matthew Prior, Ian Bell, Ian Blackwell, James Anderson, Liam Plunkett and Kabir Ali fail to take the chance to impress during five floodlit games here.

It will be a challenging series. Pakistan are a stronger outfit in one-day cricket than in the Test arena. Abdul Razzaq, the Pakistan all-rounder, has recovered from the elbow injury that kept him out of the Test series, and the hosts are on a high following the 2-0 win in the Test series.

England need to start well and that means winning at least one of the opening two matches in Lahore. Shahid Afridi, possibly the world's most fearsome limited-over batsman, will miss these games - serving the remainder of his ban for deliberately scuffing up the pitch in Faisalabad - and when he returns Pakistan will be at full strength.

The absence of Vaughan and the availability of the "supersub", a 12th player who can be introduced whenever the captain wishes, looks set to give Matthew Prior the chance to push his case for a World Cup place. Prior is the Sussex wicket-keeper, and he also opens the batting for the county in one-day cricket where his aggressive stroke play has brought him a fair amount of success. In his only one-day international, against Zimbabwe in 2004, he opened, as he did in England's narrow defeat to Pakistan A on Wednesday, when he scored a stylish 72.

Even so it would be a surprise if England asked Prior to bat here tomorrow. After an unsuccessful period attempting to turn Geraint Jones into a "pinch-hitter" - a player who is sent in at the top of the order to look for boundaries while the fielding restrictions are in place - England eventually returned to the Test combination of Andrew Strauss and Marcus Trescothick.

Both have impressive one-day records but the batsman friendly nature of the pitches here make this an ideal location for a pinch-hitter, and if England wanted to give Prior a go, it would be Strauss who slipped down to three.

Many batsmen would find the pinch-hitter tag slightly insulting because it is akin to being called a slogger. But the label does not bother Prior. "Some people might call Australia's Adam Gilchrist a pinch-hitter," said Prior, making his point. "I don't think he would see it as an insult so it is not something I am worried about. I enjoy opening the batting in one-day cricket and I feel I can play my most natural game there."

Should Prior score runs at the top of the order he would put Geraint Jones's place in the side under pressure. Jones is a powerful and dangerous batsman too, but there is only likely to be room for one of these two when Vaughan returns.

If England are to compete with Pakistan, they will need Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff to find their best form with the bat. Pietersen scored a hundred in the second Test but the confidence which helped him to smash around the South Africans and Aussies seems to have been doused.

Flintoff had a miserable time with the bat during the Test series, averaging just over 20 in six innings, and he will be pleased that Danish Kaneria, who dismissed him twice, is seldom selected in Pakistan's one-day side. But Shoaib Akhtar, who claimed Flintoff's scalp on three occasions, is. Shoaib's record in one-day cricket - a wicket every 30 balls - is even better than in Test matches.

After bowling well in the third Test Plunkett looks certain to make his one-day debut. Anderson should be picked ahead of Kabir but every member of the squad has something to prove over the next 12 days.

England (probable): M E Trescothick (capt), A J Strauss, V S Solanki, K P Pietersen, A Flintoff, P D Collingwood, I D Blackwell, G O Jones, L E Plunkett, S Harmison, J M Anderson. Supersub: M J Prior.

Pakistan (probable): Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), Salman Butt, Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Abdul Razzaq, Kamran Akmal, Yasir Arafat, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Sami. Supersub: Arshad Khan.

* The England and Wales Cricket Board and the Board of Cricket Control in India have at last agreed on an itinerary for the forthcoming tour of India. The cancellation of the Asia Cup means that England will now leave for India on 13 February 2006, a week earlier than expected, and once there they will play three Tests and seven one-dayers during a two month visit.

TRIO WITH A LOT TO PROVE

* GERAINT JONES
If Matthew Prior takes his opportunities at the top of the order, the place of England's wicketkeeper will come under severe pressure. Prior is confident and ambitious, and Jones needs to keep wicket well and score useful runs lower down the order.

* JAMES ANDERSON
Simon Jones, Chris Tremlett, Liam Plunkett and Kabir Ali have all pushed ahead of Anderson in the England pecking order. Injuries have given Anderson an opportunity to show that he still has what it takes, and he needs to perform.

* IAN BLACKWELL
There is a cricketer England could use in the 2007 World Cup within Blackwell. But has he got the desire to show it? He is never going to top the fitness tests but few hit the ball harder. This could be his last chance to impress.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
News
people
Life and Style
tech
News
Justin Bieber performing in Paris earlier this year
people
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips
video
Arts and Entertainment
In his own words: Oscar Wilde in 1882
theatreNew play by the Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials - and what they reveal about the man
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m
filmWith US films earning record-breaking amounts at the Chinese box office, Hollywood is more than happy to take its lead from its new-found Asian audience
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil