There’s less than a month to go until the second Twenty20 Cricket World Cup in the space of a year and England’s final preparations start today when they play the first of seven T20 matches against Pakistan across the next 13 days.
The opening four matches take place in Karachi before three in Lahore, and will see England tested with a condensed schedule ahead of the showpiece tournament, which is due to get under way in Australia next month.
After stellar seasons with the Test side, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow will not travel to Pakistan. Bowler Chris Jordan and all-rounder Liam Livingstone were not considered for the tour due to injuries.
Furthermore opener Jason Roy has been dropped from the side after a run of poor form at the crease for a number of months now.
Moeen Ali is expected to take on the captaincy of the side while the touring skipper Jos Buttler enters the latter stages of his injury recovery.
Five uncapped players – Jordan Cox, Tom Helm, Will Jacks, Olly Stone and Luke Wood – are among the tourists hoping to make a late charge for the World Cup, though none of these are currently in the initially named squad for the tournament Down Under.
Chris Woakes and Mark Wood will have the chance to prove their fitness having been included following periods on the sidelines with injury.
New setting for England
England ideally need to go to the challenging pitches of Karachi and Lahore and lay down a marker in an atmosphere they have never experienced before on the international stage.
Not only have these players never played an international T20 match in Pakistan but England as a team have never played a T20 in the country.
The two sides first met in 2006 but any series designated a home one for Pakistan has been played across the Arabian Sea in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.
England have played in Pakistan before, though, having last visited the country for a Test series in 2005.
Pakistan have been dealing with a multitude of off-field issues recently, notably a series of flash floods that at one point left one third of the country under water, but it is believed that all seven matches will be able to proceed as planned.
It is an interesting time for the T20 squad, having got their tenure under Buttler and new coach Matthew Mott underway this summer with a loss against India before another 2-1 defeat at the hands of South Africa.
World Cup incoming
England have seven matches against Pakistan before a miniature warm-up series against Australia but thereafter the side are in World Cup mode, so they need to start stringing a series of wins together before the showpiece event in Australia.
Momentum is important heading into any major tournament and given T20 cricket can be won or lost within an over, having the experience of winning in the run-up will only benefit England.
Their opening match of the World Cup is against Pakistan, on 17 October, so this series offers the perfect chance to see where they are.
Pakistan have home advantage and a mixture of big hitters and lethal bowlers so it will be no walk in the park for England, but in Karachi today it is paramount Moeen’s men get off to a winning start in a series that will no doubt be demanding and attritional.