Cardiff, June 13: Having swept aside all opposition in the group stage, hosts England are expected to face a strong pace attack when they take on Pakistan in the first semi-final of the Champions Trophy cricket tournament here on Wednesday.
Pakistan managed to bundle out a formidable Sri Lankan batting line-up for 236 runs in their last Group B match after deciding to bowl first at the Cardiff Wales Stadium here on Monday.
The Pakistan bowling attack comprising pacers Junaid Khan, Mohammad Amir, Fahim Ashraf, Hasan Ali and their lone spinner Imad Wasim will look to test the strong England batting line-up as well.
Junaid Khan and Mohammad Amir were in excellent form in the previous match against Sri Lanka and will aim to recreate some of that magic against the hosts.
Some of the deliveries by the duo against Sri Lanka were almost unplayable and a similar performance at the same venue on Wednesday could prove to be ominious for England.
If Pakistan do manage to upstage the hosts, it will be their first appearance in the final of a 50-over International Cricket Council (ICC) tournament since losing to Australia in the title clash of the 1999 World Cup.
The last time they qualified for a 50-over ICC tournament was at the 2011 World Cup when they lost a thriller to arch-rivals India in Mohali.
However, Pakistan’s power-packed line-up of fast bowlers is offset to some extent by the lack of too much firepower in their batting.
Most of the Pakistan batsmen have struggled during the group matches. Skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed and opener Fakhar Zaman are the only Pakistan batsmen who have shown some kind of form in this tournament.
Sarfaraz struck an unbeaten 61 runs in the must-win last group game against Sri Lanka, which Pakistan won by three wickets to qualify for the last-four stage.
England, on the other hand, were the dominant team in Group A. They dominated teams like Australia, Bangladesh and New Zealand in home conditions for an all-win record in the group stage and will look to maintain their winning streak.
England’s batting line-up, boasting the likes of Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morga, Ben Stokes and Jos Butler, has looked to be in an impressive form but is expected to face a stern test against the Pakistan bowling attack.
Joe Root also sits among the top run scorers in the ongoing ICC Champions Trophy scoring 212 runs in three matches with the highest score of an unbeaten 133 against Bangladesh.
The bowling department for England has also looked good, trying to provide an equal balance to the side under the likes of pacers Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood, Jake Ball, Ben Stokes and their spinners Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali who have consistently delivered for their side.
England lead the head-to-head battle with a 6-4 record against Pakistan in ICC tournaments. The last time Pakistan defeated England in an ICC event was in 1996.
England: Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan(c), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler(wk), Moeen Ali, Steven Finn, Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood, Jake Ball, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Adil Rashid, David Willey
Pakistan: Sarfraz Khan (c and wk), Ahmed Shehzad, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Junaid Khan, Mohammed Amir, Mohammed Hafeez, Shadab Khan and Shoaib Malik.