September 30, Sharjah Start time 1500 local (1100 GMT)
Pakistan seek ODI turnaround against West Indies
Pakistan swept past West Indies in the three-T20I series, humbling the World Champions on slow, turning conditions, which neutralised their big-hitting game. That they couldn't rotate the strike either exposed their deficiencies. Pakistan's batsmen, meanwhile, were right in their comfort zone, accumulating runs without the pressure of playing the fast-paced brand of limited-overs cricket that they have not yet adjusted to. It helped, of course, that in two of the three matches they were chasing low targets.
Can a change of formats bring a change in fortune for West Indies? The fifty-over format has been Pakistan's weakest suit for a while now, which is why they are languishing at No. 9 in the ODI rankings. Prior to their consolation win over England in the fifth ODI in Cardiff, they had lost nine of their previous ten completed matches, the solitary win coming against Ireland. However, their biggest weakness - a shortage of firepower and enterprise with the bat - is likely to be mitigated on the slow pitches that could feature in the ODIs as well. If West Indies, who sit at No. 8 in the ODI rankings, do not find a way to adapt to conditions and tackle Pakistan's bowlers, the ODI series might end up feeling like an extension of the T20Is.
Given both teams' lowly rankings, the series acquires added significance in the race to secure automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup. At the cut-off date of September 30, 2017, the top-eight teams in the rankings gain direct entry to the tournament, with those outside the top eight having to play a qualifying tournament. A 3-0 series win for Pakistan would have them displace West Indies from the No. 8 rank.
Pakistan WLLLL (completed matches, most recent first) West Indies LWLLW
In the spotlight
In his short international career so far, Imad Wasim has rapidly developed into a valuable allrounder in Pakistan's limited-overs sides. He picked up nine wickets at an average of 5.88 and an economy rate of 4.41, with his left-arm spin, in the T20Is against West Indies. In the recent ODI series in England, he demonstrated his batting ability with hard-hitting fifties in the lower order at Lord's and Headingley. If he can keep up his form, with the ball in particular, Pakistan's task will be made far easier.
One might be forgiven for wondering whether Jason Holder was in West Indies' squad for the T20I series. He was, but he didn't play any of the matches. His only outing on this tour so far came in the warm-up T20 game, in which he scored 3 and returned figures of 0 for 30 in three overs. Now he returns to the playing XI as West Indies' ODI captain. While his focus will be on pushing his side back to winning ways, he might also be under some pressure to justify his place in the side.
Pakistan captain Azhar Ali, who was not in the T20I squad, will slot in at the top of the order alongside Sharjeel Khan. Apart from that, the top six of the batting line-up should look the same as the one that featured in the T20I series, while Mohammad Nawaz and Imad Wasim are likely to keep their places as the lead spinners. There is less certainty about the fast bowling department, but Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz are probably safe bets.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Azhar Ali (capt.), 2 Sharjeel Khan, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Umar Akmal, 6 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 7 Mohammad Nawaz, 8 Imad Wasim, 9 Wahab Riaz, 10 Mohammad Amir, 11 Hasan Ali/Rahat Ali
West Indies are likely to pick a similar XI to the one that played their last ODI, the tri-series final against Australia in Barbados. The absence of Andre Fletcher will necessitate a change at the top, however, with either Evin Lewis or Jonathan Carter opening with Johnson Charles.
West Indies (possible): 1 Evin Lewis/Jonathan Carter, 2 Johnson Charles, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Jason Holder (capt.), 8 Carlos Brathwaite, 9 Sunil Narine, 10 Sulieman Benn, 11 Shannon Gabriel
Pitch and conditions
This match will be the first one of the tour in Sharjah. A slow, turning wicket, playing to Pakistan's strengths is expected. The weather will be quite hot, with a high of 36 degree centigrade, and no rain is forecast.
Stats and trivia
Pakistan are stuck in ninth in the ODI rankings, with 86 points, their lowest-ever tally since the rankings system was introduced in 2001
Pakistan have won nine matches and lost 15 during Azhar Ali's 25-game tenure as ODI captain
Sharjeel Khan's strike rate of 156.52 in ODIs in 2016 is the best among batsmen who have played five innings or more
"We wanted to change our brand of cricket. We wanted to bowl better, field better and bat better than West Indies, and so far we have been able to do that." Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur
"We have to take this game as a very serious game, the points [for World Cup qualification] are very close at this point of time. We had a very good tri-nation series, it's important we keep that momentum going in this one." West Indies ODI captain Jason Holder knows about the importance of the match.