Hit Wicket - Roundup of the NatWest Triangular Tournament
NatWest have shown that there is another way, and not just in banking. The Triangular series', which they have sponsored, have brought a new dimension to cricket- for both players and spectators.
After winning the series in 2000 against the West Indies and Zimbabwe, England has had little success in limited-over internationals, losing their last 10 games. Pakistan and Australia play far more ODIs per year than England, who were really the last country to take onboard this new form of cricket, but the "pommies" will still be looking to give the visitors a run for their money.
While Duncan Fletcher and Nasser Hussain have done an excellent job rebuilding the England test side, the one-day side has been somewhat neglected. The England batting line-up doesn't have the stability and consistency needed to succeed at international level in limited overs cricket.
An example of this would be Lancashire's Andrew Flintoff - maybe well known for the wrong reasons. After major controversy over his weight last season, following much doubt over his career prospects as an all-rounder, the hard-hitting 23 year old was re-introduced into the side in Pakistan and saved the match in Karachi with a stunning innings of 84.
His bowling, however, has always been a problem. Inconsistency and injuries have been plentiful, but, according to many, his re-edition into the England side could be sooner rather than later after a winter spent re-modelling his previously front-on action to prevent further back troubles.
Other key-players such as Yorkshire all-rounder Craig White, Surrey batsman Graham Thorpe, Somerset fast-bowler Andrew Caddick, and, of course, England and Essex captain, Nasser Hussain have been ruled out of many matches in this series through injury.
Australia are generally considered to be the best side in the world, in both limited overs and test cricket. Their record breaking run of 16 test victories was only recently drawn to a close on their tour of India, and Steve Waugh led them to another record of 14 unbeaten ODIs after taking over the captaincy in early 1999.
29 year old wicket-keeper/opening batsman, Adam Gilchrist, will play a key-role in their series with both the gloves and bat. The western Australian's glove-work is unfaultable, taking 146 catches and 24 stumpings in 113 matches. He has made 3600 runs, at an average of 34.28 with a highest score of 154. Those runs have included six centuries, nineteen half-centuries and four not outs.
New South Wales' most famous twins, the Waugh brothers, will be looking to further their brilliant record in all forms of cricket. Steve Waugh, the elder of the two, is the only Australian to have played more than 300 one-day games, is one of only six Aussies to have won 100 caps, arrived in the UK on the verge of 9000 test runs, and has scored 25 test centuries. He has scored three limited overs centuries, and forty-one half centuries, with 7182 runs in 277 innings at an average of 32.35.
Mark Waugh's one-day records are an average of 40.02, with 8245 runs in 225 innings, nineteen not outs, eighteen centuries, 49 half-centuries and a highest score of 173.
Both can bowl; Steve's average is 34.36, best bowling figures 4-33, with an economy rate of 4.55. Mark is marginally more expensive, with an average of 34.51, a best of 5-24 and an economy rate at 4.81.
After regrouping themselves and making a superb comeback, albeit with more controversy than would have been welcome, to make it 1-1 in the two match test series against England, Pakistan will be looking to prove they are very much a force to be reckoned with in this NatWest series. Key players for the side are Inzamam-ul-haq, Shoib Akhtar and Saqlain Mushtaq.
The solid-form of Inzamam, both physically and with the bat, has snatched victory from the jaws of defeat many a time. His 7923 runs in 229 innings have come at an average of 40.63, with thirty four not outs, including a highest score of 137, seven centuries and fifty-nine half-centuries.
There is reason to believe that his chunky appearance is owed to the fact that he keeps running between the wickets to a minimum, with a wide variety of superb shots all around the wicket.
Shoib Akhtar, known as the Rawalpindi Express, is one of the fastest bowler's in the world. His career has been marred by the back-troubles which many pacemen suffer.
Although he had a disappointing start to this tour, going for 2-62 from 32 overs in the game against an inexperienced and youthful Derbyshire side, his fitness level, along with his consistency and therefore pace, has picked up. His one-day record includes a best bowling figures of 5-19, at an average of 20.63, and an economy rate of 4.53, in 34 matches.
Saqlain Mushtaq has done much for the art of finger spinning. As well as his control and seemingly effortless action, batsman are wary of the 24 year old's mystery ball, which drifts away from the batsman, then turns sharply back into the stumps like a leg-break.
His bowling is always unnervingly consistent and accurate, but his potency to the English may not be as strong now, having played county cricket for Surrey. In his 57 matches he has taken 250 wickets at an average of 20.55, an economy rate of 4.27 and with best bowling figures of 5-20.
With the common view that England are the best team in the world at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, it is expected to be a Pakistan v Australia final- but no team should find it easy in any match.
There is no doubt that there will be some fascinating battles throughout the course of the series. Saqlain v his surrey team mates Alec Stewart, Ben Hollioake, and, should he recover from injury, Graham Thorpe.
There is also much debate over that illusive 100mph mark in fast bowling. Will it be Akhtar or Lee? With both in England this summer, the series - if not the weather - is bound to heat up.
Next time: Full report on the series, the winners, the losers… and those left in between…
N.B: All statistics taken prior to this series.