The side they fielded, captained by Ben Stokes, has variously been called a second-string or third team. Not only were 16 players who had been in England’s ODI squad to face Sri Lanka unavailable, but a number of players – chiefly Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer – were injured.
The performances were an illustration of English white-ball cricket’s depth, but also the total commitment to the brand of cricket espoused by Eoin Morgan since the World Cup failure in 2015. Little has changed since Trevor Bayliss, coach when they won the 2019 tournament, left the job.
So, at the end of a remarkable week, what do England’s 1st to 4th teams looks like?
These teams were picked on the basis that England like to have six bowling options in a side, including a wrist-spinner and a left-armer. They are also picked on the basis that England are not considering Alex Hales (which they are not). Clearly, on batting ability alone, he would be in the Second Team. But his absence has little to do with his batting ability.
Roy, Bairstow, Root, Morgan (c), Stokes, Buttler (wk), Woakes, S.Curran, Rashid, Archer, Wood
A formidable side. Only one place is realistically up for grabs – the one vacated by Liam Plunkett when he was unceremoniously dumped after the 2019 World Cup.
Sam Curran gets the nod ahead of Moeen Ali, although he would have to bowl outside the powerplay with Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer reunited. In both white-ball formats, Curran has been the flavour of the last few months.
Salt, Banton, Malan, Vince, Billings (wk), Livingstone, Moeen (c), Willey, T.Curran, Mahmood, Parkinson
This team would have more than enough to beat a number of first-choice ODI teams. The batting looks strong, although the bowling is a bit spin-heavy, and Livingstone is not the strongest sixth-bowling option.
Phil Salt and Saqib Mahmood confirmed their status as England’s next-in-lines in the Pakistan series.
David Willey’s stock has risen back up this summer, while Tom Curran is under pressure for his place from the likes of Brydon Carse and Reece Topley. Parkinson has pushed ahead of Liam Dawson, but the fact he is a wrist-spinner gave him an advantage already.
Billings – who has had little luck since making a century against Australia last year – is currently the leading candidate to step in to the middle order when Morgan, the oldest player in the First Team, calls it a day, but there are other candidates snapping at his heels.
Duckett, Jacks, Crawley, Lawrence, Foakes (wk), Dawson, Gregory (c), Jordan, Carse, Crane, Topley
This still looks a fine side. Ben Duckett, Will Jacks and Dan Lawrence didn’t get a game against Pakistan, but are ready to step up.
Liam Dawson provides a second spin option behind Mason Crane, who has been in fine Blast form and looks set to be a star of the Hundred (playing under Morgan at London Spirit).
Foakes has only played one ODI England, but performed admirably. Gregory, Somerset’s short-form skipper, pips hm to the captaincy.
Bell-Drummond, Clarke, Hain, Pope (wk), Brook, Critchley, Garton, C.Overton, Stone, Briggs, Ball
We’re a little bit scratchy by this point.
Only four of this team (all bowlers) are capped at ODI level, and we don’t know if Joe Clarke (who could easily be in the Twos) is being considered for selection at this time. Hain does not necessarily play 50-over cricket “the England way”, but has an extraordinary average. Yorkshire’s Harry Brook is a coming man, across all formats.
Ollie Pope and Olly Stone have ambitions in all formats, but injury ruled both out against Pakistan. George Garton has been unfortunate this summer, as he was called up to face Sri Lanka and Pakistan, only to be forced into isolation. He is behind Curran, Willey and Topley (and, in T20, Tymal Mills too) in the left-arm queue.
Yet there are still plenty of good players missing out on all four teams, such as John Simpson, David Payne, Ollie Robinson, Tom Helm, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, and Tom Abell.
The England ODI side that beat Pakistan contained: one player from their first team, five from the seconds, three from the thirds, one from the fourths, and another who misses out entirely. Not bad, lads. Not bad.
As an aside, 14 of the 18 counties are represented in the four teams (with a 15th, Gloucestershire, having Payne and James Bracey in England squads this year).
The sheer breadth of the county system – and the length of its white-ball competitions – has been an advantage in England’s ODI empire-building. Many of these players have then refined their games in overseas leagues.