You might as well bring out all the clichés. If this was a boxing match, the referee would indeed have stopped it by now. If it was a tennis match, the chair umpire would have called "game, set, match" and pronounced it a straight-sets victory for Pakistan. But this is cricket, after all, and both sides must play through to the bitter end in the upcoming two games where the only potential outcome is further embarrassment and farce.
After looking at Zimbabwe's squad following the second ODI, it was hard to see what changes they could make to try and make this series more competitive. Nothing jumped out. After the third ODI, it wasn't hard to see why. Zimbabwe rung the changes, perhaps for no other reason than something had to be done. The outcome was devastating. Zimbabwe plunged new depths, getting bowled out for 67, with Pakistan chasing it down in under 10 overs. The average T20 game lasts longer.
It isn't clear by now what Pakistan can learn in the last two games. They could, of course, try out new players, but would how they perform really be an indication of their talent or the inadequacy of the hosts? Will the young, inexperienced Zimbabwe side thrown into the deep end at this hour of crisis suffer scarring due to the crushing nature of the defeats?
One good thing to come out of this, however, may be that it hastens both parties in Zimbabwe to the negotiating table. Zimbabwe Cricket would have seen the lack of depth to their international side, and realised they can ill-afford yet another player exodus, particularly when so much was invested to secure the return of cricketers like Brendan Taylor. The players, on the other hand, may not like becoming scapegoats for the shambolic performance of the national side this series, and could be more partial to agreeing a settlement.
Pakistan, on the other hand, just need to keep the intensity up; this is a test of professionalism as much as anything else. Playing against a side so vastly inferior to their own, ensuring standards remain high and concentration doesn't dip can present a real challenge. In the face of scarce resistance from the opposition, a mindset of complacency might be the only hazard they'd need to guard against.
Zimbabwe LLLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Peter Moor has been given the license to take the gloves off - quite literally. Having been relieved of his wicketkeeping duties, he's effectively been asked to earn his place on batting performances alone. With the possibility of sevral players coming back into the side for the next series, depending on how negotiations go, a lot of players from this squad will make way. Moor's ability with the bat promises much, but an average of 18.44 in 34 ODIs suggests he hasn't nearly made the most of it. A half-century in the second ODI was sandwiched between scores of 1 and 2, and consistent performances have been hard to come by for the 27-year-old. He will be fully aware his long-term place in the side could hinge on his scores in the following two games, and he has the ability to make them impressive ones.
For Pakistan once more, it is likely the bowling attack will determine how competitive the fourth ODI will be. Regardless of who plays in the final XI, every single bowler on tour has the ability to blow the hosts away. You might as well draw lots. Faheem Ashraf and Junaid Khan were the chief destroyers on Wednesday, Usman Khan the game before, and Shadab Khan in the opener. Pakistan's bowlers are sharing the wickets around, and there's no reason to think that should change in what remains of this tour.
Having made several changes in the third game and seen them backfire spectacularly, Zimbabwe could revert to the relative safety of their XIs from the first two games, where at least some respectability was preserved.
Zimbabwe (possible): 1 Brian Chari/Prince Masvaure, 2 Chamu Chibhabha, 3 Hamilton Masakadza (capt), 4 Tarisai Musakanda, 5 Ryan Murray (wk), 6 Peter Moor, 7 Donald Tiripano, 8 Liam Roche/Tendai Chisoro, 9 Wellington Masakadza, 10 Tendai Chatara, 11 Blessing Muzarbani
Having put on a flawless display on Wednesday, Pakistan may be tempted to give the same eleven another run out, especially since they weren't particularly stretched during a game that ended half an hour before the lunch break.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Fakhar Zaman, 2 Imam-ul-Haq, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Asif Ali, 6 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), 7 Shadab Khan, 8 Faheem Ashraf, 9 Yasir Shah, 10 Junaid Khan, 11 Usman Khan
Pitch and conditions
The weather is once more expected to be cold, and the pitch flat.
Stats and trivia
- Sarfraz Ahmed hasn't been called upon to bat much over the past year. Since the semi-finals of last year's Champions Trophy, he hasn't batted in seven of Pakistan's 15 ODIs. In the eight innings he has walked out to the crease, he has scored 98 runs at 16.33.
- No player in the current Zimbabwe squad has a five-wicket haul in ODIs. Wellington Masakadza has the best figures, with 4 for 21 in a game against Afghanistan in 2015.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000