October 19, 2017
Start time 1400 local (1100 GMT)
An ODI league structure beginning in 2019, approved by the ICC, came at a welcome time, especially considering the gulf in quality between teams currently. There would otherwise have been much soul-searching about relevance of ODI cricket these days, and whether series such as the ongoing one between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the UAE was the best exposition for the format.
Anyone making that case would have a point. The three games played so far have not been of the greatest skill, with the lack of competitiveness, slowness of the pitches and empty stands. Add to that the fact that there's not much left to play for, with Pakistan already having wrapped up the five-match series 3-0. You would need to be a particularly good salesman to get anyone excited for the remainder of the series.
Still, there are points and ranking places at stake, and Pakistan have an ideal chance to extend their winning streak - currently standing at seven ODIs - to nine. Sri Lanka, having suffered ten straight ODI losses, will be keen not to go into their next tour with that run stretching to an unseemly dozen.
For Pakistan, the young bowling attack continued to perform, so much so that Mohammad Amir's absence has barely been noticed. Ahmed Shehzad was the only player struggling for form, and when he was dropped, debutant Imam-ul-Haq smashed a century. The final two games will be played in Sharjah, where Pakistan feel as at home as anywhere in Pakistan.
It has been quite the opposite for Sri Lanka. Angelo Mathews' all-round class appears sorely missed, batsmen can't seem to read Pakistan's spinners, and their bowlers lack penetration. Chamara Kapugedera was brought into the side for the third game, but now appears likely to miss the series, after a throw from the keeper struck him under the right eye, causing heavy swelling. It's that sort of series for Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka LLLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
With Ahmed Shehzad's woes in the first two games followed by Imam-ul-Haq's heroics on Wednesday, Fakhar Zaman has been flying under the radar. On three occasions this series, he has reached double figures, but scores of 43, 11 and 29 suggest a failure to capitalise. In the recent series against the World XI in Lahore, Zaman had scores of 8, 21 and 27.
Sri Lankan fans' frustration has boiled over several times in a wretched 2017. After the third ODI, the brunt of their ire was directed at Dinesh Chandimal, whose 49-ball 19 sapped the momentum from the Sri Lankan innings. However, Upul Tharanga also slowed down after the opening partnership was broken, suggesting it was genuinely difficult to score in the middle overs. But Chandimal, who also unwisely burned his side's review, has struggled this ODI series, with scores of 4, 2 and 19. As Sri Lanka's most experienced batsman after Tharanga, his side need him to find form if they are to leave the UAE with a limited-overs win. Friday would be a good time to start.
Pakistan have been rocked by the announcement that Mohammad Hafeez, for the third time in three years, has been reported for a suspect action. He is still expected to play in what could be an unchanged XI.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Imam-ul-Haq, 2 Fakhar Zaman, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Mohammad Hafeez, 6 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt. and wk), 7 Faheem Ashraf, 8 Rumman Raees, 9 Shadab Khan, 10 Hasan Ali, 11 Junaid Khan
Sri Lanka made a statement by dropping Kusal Mendis for the third game. His replacement Kapugedera remains doubtful following a freak injury during the third ODI. That might see Mendis return to the side. If Kapugedera is fit, Siriwardana's place in the team will be under pressure too following an indifferent series so far.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Niroshan Dickwella, (wk), 2 Upul Tharanga (capt), 3 Kusal Mendis/Chamara Kapugedera, 4 Lahiru Thirimanne, 5 Dinesh Chandimal, 6 Milinda Siriwardana, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Dushmantha Chameera, 9 Akila Dananjaya, 10 Jeffrey Vandersay, 11 Lahiru Gamage
Pitch and conditions
The conditions in Sharjah may also present the side bowling second a problem with dew. Besides that, the pitch is unlikely to vary from the surfaces in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Stats and trivia
Imam-ul-Haq became just the second Pakistani batsman to score a hundred on ODI debut. Saleem Elahi struck an unbeaten 102 in 1995, also against Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka have lost their last five ODIs against Pakistan in Sharjah. The last time they beat Pakistan in Sharjah was in 2002.