|| AFP ||
Lewis Gregory is relishing the chance to use his 'inside knowledge' of Pakistan cricket after being handed a shock call-up by England for the ongoing one-day international series.
A Covid outbreak within the England camp meant the originally selected squad for the three-match contest were all forced to self-isolate, with head coach Chris Silverwood having to assemble an entirely new 18-man party just days before Thursday's first ODI in Cardiff.
Yet despite the upheaval, 50-over world champions England still thrashed Pakistan by nine wickets, with only 67.1 of the match's scheduled 100 overs required.
Somerset all-rounder Gregory, one of five players in the England XI who were making their ODI debut, played his part with a miserly haul of 1-11 in four overs after being given the new ball that saw him dismiss the dangerous Mohammad Rizwan.
But the surprise of his return to international duty was eased a touch by the fact Gregory was up against familiar opponents, having played for Islamabad United in this year's Pakistan Super League T20 tournament.
"Knowing who you are playing against and their strengths and weaknesses helps, having that experience in the PSL was amazing," Gregory told reporters on Friday.
"They have some fantastic cricketers in Pakistan. To be able to play against them before and know who you are against gives you a bit of a boost. Hopefully, we can put that into practice."
England, under the captaincy of the fit-again Ben Stokes, may have been fielding a new side, but their players did have the benefit of being match-hardened from playing in the domestic T20 Blast.
'Not easy, quarantine'
Pakistan, by contrast, were restricted to one intra-squad practice game after quarantining following their arrival in England, with a second such match thwarted by rain in Derby.
But Gregory said it was wrong to assume England, who were right on top at Sophia Gardens from the moment Saqib Mahmood took a wicket with the first ball of the match, had won because Pakistan were under-done.
"It's obviously not the best preparation," he accepted. "But they (Pakistan) have obviously been playing cricket, they've come off a delayed PSL -- I don't think they've come off a couple months chilling (relaxing) back home.
"It's not easy the quarantine, I've been there, done that, it's not a nice thing to go through but we played really well."
The series continues at Lord's this weekend and the 29-year-old, who has also represented England in eight T20s, added: "It's different conditions than they're used to, but I'm fully expecting them to come back and rebound quickly and put us under pressure on Saturday."
It remains uncertain if England's stand-ins will be retained for the subsequent T20 series against Pakistan but Gregory is determined to make the most of his chance.
Saturday's match at the home of cricket is set to take place in front of a capacity crowd -- the first English cricket has seen since the pandemic.
"Any time you play at Lord's is amazing and to do that in front of a full house will be special," said Gregory.
"It's been a long time playing in front of no one, so it is going to be amazing. I can't wait to be there and see how special it really is."