Yet, can England really ever prepare against a maverick Pakistan side which can pull a rabbit out of a hat at every turn? Can Adil Rashid dismiss Babar early? In turn, can Haris Rauf stop Alex Hales? Which star leggie, Shadab Khan or Adil Rashid, will have a bad day?
Both sides have played a total of 10 T20Is since March 2021, with England having a 60% win record. This is one rivalry in which formulaic match-ups often don’t yield results and the best-laid plans can go awry. Plans B, C and D are important.
England bat deep, boast power hitters, left-arm pacers, leg spinners and finger spinners. They are the most stable and balanced side in the tournament. Pakistan also have stability, T20 smarts and a measured set of openers but are maybe a bit over-reliant on their pace bowling.
The unknown factor is the MCG surface and the conditions. Three of the Super 12 matches were washed out and both Pakistan and England have lost here. A shortened game could mean thinking on one’s feet and improvising on the go.
The highest Powerplay score is Ireland’s 59/1 against England. The lowest is Zimbabwe’s 28/3 against India. Pakistan managed to score 43 runs at the death, in overs 17-20, against India: will that be enough against England? Pace and bounce will have a say too. The square boundaries are huge. The running between the wickets and the catching in the deep will be crucial factors. Pakistan’s fielding and middle-order performance may well decide the game.
This will be the 8th time the two sides have squared up against each other in this format in the last two months alone, but apart from a warmup in Brisbane this is the first time the teams will meet in Australia.
“We’ve played against them a lot recently but in different conditions,” said Buttler. “It’s going to be a different game to the (7-game) series in Pakistan (in Sept-Oct). We know we’re up against an excellent team. They’re a team we’ve seen lots of in the recent past, and we’ve had some brilliant matches against them played in fantastic spirit. “We’ll focus on them a little bit and focus on ourselves a lot.”
“England also have quality fast bowlers and batsmen,” said Babar Azam, “We have to execute our plans well. England are one of the best teams, so we will rely on our pacers to contain them.”
England know that the way their top order tackles Pakistan’s pacers could well hold the key. “Pakistan have a very long history of producing excellent pace bowlers, and I see the team we’re up against as no different. I’m sure by the end of their careers, some of the guys we’ll play against will go down as some of the best bowlers Pakistan have ever produced,” Buttler said. “That’s a huge part of why they get to go to a World Cup final.”