Zimbabwe seek consolatory win
With Pakistan already having clinched the series with four wins in a row, only pride will be at stake in Sheikhupura as the Mobilink Cup reaches its conclusion with the fifth and final ODI. Pakistan will be aiming for a whitewash, while Zimbabwe will want to finish on a high after failing to capitalise on opportunities throughout the series.
More debuts are on the cards for Pakistan as they test their bench strength ahead of a packed and competitive season. Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi and Kamran Hussain have all been rested, indicating that there will be plenty of fresh faces taking the field. Nasir Jamshed, Pakistan's find of the series, and Khalid Latif - unimpressive on debut - are likely to be retained at the top of the order, while Khurram Manzoor, with almost 800 runs in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, is likely to be slotted at No. 3 with the experienced duo of Shoaib Malik and Misbah-ul-Haq to follow. With Pakistan looking for variety and depth in their bowling attack, Rizwan Ahmed, the leg-spinning allrounder, may also make his debut.
Pakistan's bowling has been a worry - they have dismissed Zimbabwe just once in the series. Only Sohail Tanvir, with seven wickets in four matches, has succeeded in troubling the batsmen regularly. Sohail Khan had a lacklusture debut after high expectations following a promising first-class season, but he will get another chance to impress the selectors. Wahab Riaz may become Pakistan's third left-arm fast-bowler to make his debut in the series after capturing 51 wickets in ten Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches.
Zimbabwe will once again be without Tawanda Mupariwa, who sprained his left ankle while training in Faisalabad. Hamilton Masakadza will be leading the side in Sheikhupura as Prosper Utseya, troubled by the aggravation of an ankle injury, sits out the final match of what has been a disappointing series for him. Masakadza, eager to leave Pakistan on a positive note, rued Zimbabwe's lack of depth in bowling and their poor batting in the middle stages of their innings.
"We have made a habit of starting well," Masakadza said. "We bowl well at the start but we let the initiative slip in the middle overs resulting in easy runs for Pakistan's batsmen and thus a loss of pressure. The same has been the case with our batting. We get decent starts but we fail to finish things off and a less-than-competitive total against Pakistan's strong and experienced line-up is what we offer."
Robin Brown, Zimbabwe's coach, backed Masakadza's comments on the need to be consistent throughout the match. "We are desperate to win but for that we need to bat and bowl consistently throughout the innings," Brown said. "It is a matter of playing more cricket to get the experience that is required to perform well against top sides. We play with pride and it is not difficult to motivate the team despite the recent losses as every individual knows the need to learn from the mistakes and gain as much experience as possible."
Unused in the series so far, Timycen Maruma, the right-arm legspinner, may be drafted into the side to check Pakistan's progress in the middle stages. Keith Dabengwa and Elton Chigumbura have provided depth to the batting, but will be required to assert themselves with the ball if Zimbabwe are to make anything of the dead rubber.
Zimbabwe have tasted victory at this ground earlier - they beat Pakistan the last time an ODI was played at this ground in 1998 - and Brown was confident of adding to that record. "We have learnt a massive amount just playing against Pakistan and we hope to use the psychological advantage of having beaten Pakistan at Sheikhupura to cause another upset."
With the teams based in Lahore, both captains refrained from naming their XI until before toss on Saturday. Judging by the trend throughout the series, early morning assistance is the only help bowlers can expect on the final day of the series.
Pakistan 1 Nasir Jamshed, 2 Khalid Latif, 3 Khurram Manzoor, 4 Shoaib Malik (capt), 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Fawad Alam, 7 Rizwan Ahmed, 8 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 9 Sohail Tanvir, 10 Wahab Riaz, 11 Sohail Khan.
Zimbabwe 1 Vusi Sibanda, 2 Hamilton Masakadza (capt), 3 Sean Williams, 4 Tatenda Taibu (wk), 5 Brendan Taylor, 6 Chamu Chibhabha, 7 Elton Chigumbura, 8 Keith Dabengwa, 9 Timycen Maruma, 10 Gary Brent, 11 Ray Price.
Faras Ghani is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo