Pakistan target rankings in ODI series against England

The home team, currently positioned eighth in the ICC rankings, will play a four-match One-Day International (ODI) series against England beginning in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

Pakistan will want to have a different outing than in 2012 when they were blanked 4-0 by England — who now hold the No. 6 spot — in the United Arab Emirates.   -  Reuters (File Photo)

Pakistan and England will be aiming to build one-day sides for the future as they enter a four-match series in Abu Dhabi starting on Wednesday. Pakistan, who won the preceding three-match Test series 2-0, will be in a tight corner as they seek huge improvement in their one-day ranking, in order to lift themselves for the 2019 World Cup to be held in England.

Besides hosts England, seven other top-ranked sides as of 30 September 2017 will qualify directly for the World Cup, and the only way Pakistan can move up the order (they are placed at No. 8) is by winning matches against the higher-ranked sides.

Pakistan will be hoping they do not repeat their below-par performances they gave in 2012 when they were blanked 4-0 by England — who now hold the No. 6 spot — in the United Arab Emirates.

Skipper Azhar Ali said the series is important for the future as well as rankings. “We have won Tests so we want to take that morale into the one-day series which is very important,” said Ali of the preceding Test win. “We need improvement in rankings as well as want to build the team for the future.”

Pakistan crashed out at the quarter-finals in the 2015 World Cup in March. But the worst came in Bangladesh where Pakistan were routed 3-0 in April — their first series defeat against the neighbours. Since then Pakistan beat Zimbabwe twice (home and away) and Sri Lanka in August.

Regarding Younis Khan's debatable selection, despite his poor form in one-dayers, Ali said he hopes the senior batsman will come good. “Younis is a legend so we hope that he contributes and helps us win,” said Ali, made captain after Misbah-ul-Haq and Shahid Afridi retired following the World Cup.

Ace spinner Saeed Ajmal is also not in the squad after struggling with a new bowling action, which needed remodelling after it was questioned last year. His place went to leg-spinner Yasir Shah, who will hope to carry his Test form (he took 15 wickets in two matches) into the one-day series.

To their credit, England have shown remarkable progress after being the only top side not to reach the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals. England beat the 2015 World Cup finalists New Zealand 3-2 before going down fighting by the same result against Australia — both at home. England media reported some players are training under a baseball expert Julian Wood in order to develop more hitting techniques.

England captain Eoin Morgan said his team was progressing well. “We had two very competitive series (this year) in which we have seen a lot of youngsters produce some unbelievable performances and although this series will be different, the platform will hold us in good stead,” said Morgan.

However, Morgan said Pakistan pose tough challenges. “They are always challenging and a very capable side, they offer a huge amount of skills and different challenge, various amount of spin and obviously these conditions enhance that challenge.”

Both Pakistan and England tuned up for the one-day series with comfortable warm-up wins against Nepal and Hong Kong respectively. The remaining matches will be held in Abu Dhabi (November 13), Sharjah (November 17) and Dubai (November 20).

Teams (from):

Pakistan: Azhar Ali (c), Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Bilal Asif, Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik, Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfraz Ahmed, Amir Yamin, Anwar Ali, Yasir Shah, Zafar Gohar, Rahat Ali, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Irfan

England: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Chris Jordan, Alex Hales, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, James Taylor, Reece Topley, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Liam Plunkett.

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