They say that England must absolutely beat Pakistan in the ODI series starting tomorrow (Saturday) failing which they would have to fight for a place in the 2006 Champions Trophy to be held in India. The top six teams will automatically qualify while the rest four have to give bloody noses to each other from which will emerge two, more dead than alive.
Having lost the ODIs against Australia, England are languishing in sixth place. They have only two games in the kitty, against India, just before the qualification date expires so to say.
However, after losing the Tests there is no reason to feel upbeat that they will absolutely crush Pakistan 5-0 and make it to second place just below nemesis Australia. Even a 3-2 win will enable them climb into fourth place, safe from the free for all. However, in the event the Pakistanis carry the day, New Zealand might jump over England. The Kiwis are currently in seventh place but only two points behind.
A 4-1 win for the Pakistanis will get them second place. In paper at least, and for simplistic calculations, the absence of Afridi in the first two games mean the Englanders have a chance. What happens if the guy returns for the last three games? On the other hand, there is no reason to think that the hosts would be that vulnerable without their destructive batter (who is also quiet useful with the ball).
Pakistan have won their last seven ODIs, four against India and three against West Indies. The Englanders will remember that when they were last in Pakistan way, way back in 2000, the hosts won 2-1. (The first that England won was a humdinger, actually).