LAHORE: Pakistan and Zimbabwe will be taking the field in the final One-day International of the three-match series at the Gaddafi Stadium here on Sunday with contrasting aims at the back of their minds.
With Pakistan having already wrapped up the series after taking an unassailable 2-0 lead thanks to their six-wicket victory in the second game on Friday night, the hosts will aim to complete a clean sweep to keep alive their 2017 Champions Trophy aspirations.
Pakistan’s shambolic 3-0 defeat against Bangladesh last month saw them plunge to ninth from seventh in the ICC one-day team rankings. If Azhar Ali’s side is able to complete a whitewash of the Zimbabwe series, they will head to Sri Lanka for a series of three Tests, five one-dayers and two T20 matches in a happy frame of mind.
But for the Zimbabweans, who are 11th in the ICC rankings, Sunday’s fixture will be of academic interest. But they will try to end their brief tour on a high since they had also lost the preceding T20 series 2-0.
The final match of the landmark series — the first in Pakistan for more than six years — was in doubt following Friday night’s blast, when the second ODI was being played, near the security red zone adjacent to Nishtar Sports Complex.
But sanity has prevailed following a meeting between Zimbabwe team’s officials and Lahore Police Chief Officer Amin Vaince to clear doubts over the scheduling of the last one-dayer.
The PCB has already announced on Friday that the tickets for the second and third matches were sold out. But Sunday’s fixture will indicate how many ticket holders will come to Gaddafi Stadium to watch the match in the wake of the blast. During Friday’s game, the stadium was almost packed to capacity but when the blast occurred late in the night, almost 70 per cent of them left the venue.
Pakistan will be heartened by the impressive form of fast bowler Wahab Riaz, who is the leading wicket-taker of the series. In contrast, fast bowler Mohammad Sami is still waiting for his first wicket after having conceded 116 runs in the first two ODIs.
Seamer Anwar Ali and leg-spinner Yasir Shah have also struggled in the series so far with each taking two wickets.
Former captain Shoaib Malik has silenced his critics in no uncertain terms after the all-rounder failed in the both T20 matches. Apart from scoring 112 in the opening one-dayer and an unbeaten 36, while guiding Pakistan to a series-clinching victory, he has taken two wickets for 45 runs.
Malik is the second highest scorer in the series with 148 runs after Azhar’s 181 with Haris Sohail in third place with a tally of 141 runs.
Top-order batsman Sikandar Raza, who scored exactly 100 on Friday, is Zimbabwe’s leading run-getter with an aggregate of 136, while their suspended captain Elton Chigumbura has made 117 runs in his only one match of the series.
Zimbabwe bowlers have generally been struggling and none of them have claimed more than two wickets.
A successful end to the series will surely lead to more teams visiting Pakistan in the future.
PAKISTAN: Azhar Ali (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shahzad, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Shoaib Malik, Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfraz Ahmed, Anwar Ali, Hammad Azam, Imad Wasim, Yasir Shah, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Sami, Junaid Khan.
ZIMBABWE: Sikandar Raza, Chamu Chibhabha, Hamilton Masakadza (captain), Charles Coventry, Graeme Cremer, Roy Kaia, Christopher Mpofu, Tawanda Mupariwa, Richmond Mutumbami, Tinashe Panyangara, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Prosper Utseya, Brian Vitori, Sean Williams.
Umpires: Ahsan Raza (Pakistan) and Russell Tiffin (Zimbabwe)
TV umpire: Ahmed Shahab (Pakistan)
Match referee: Azhar Khan (Pakistan)