Barring that nail-biting match in the 2nd ODI, there was never a contest from Afghanistan side in the three-match series as Pakistan comfortably cruised to a stellar whitewash at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Saturday. It was a clinical bowling performance from the Pakistan attack with Shadab Khan picking three wickets before Mohammad Rizwan’s impressive knock of 67 off 79 as the Babar Azam-led side scripted a 59-run win in the third and final ODI match of the series. With the win, Pakistan reclaimed the No. 1 ranking spot in ODIs, but a certain India threat looms large as the team heads towards Asia Cup.
Opting to bat first, Pakistan lost both their openers early before Babar and Rizwan put on a 110-run stand to revive the side. Afghanistan fought back valiantly before the the onset of the slog overs, picking three wickets in a space of just 15 deliveries before notable cameos from Agha Salman and Mohammad Nawaz helped Pakistan post a target of 269 runs.
In reply, Afghanistan never really got going with Pakistan bowlers striking at regular intervals. There were a couple of handy knocks from the middle order, but it wasn’t enough for Afghanistan to get anywhere close to the target, let alone pose a threat to Pakistan. Afghanistan eventually crumbled for a score of 209, thereby handing Pakistan a 3-0 whitewash in the ODI series.
Pakistan rise to No. 1 ODI ranking spot but…
The 3-0 series win saw Pakistan pip Australia for the No. 1 spot in the ICC Men’s ODI Rankings. The Asian side have been dominant in the 50-over format for over a year now, having clean swept West Indies and Netherlands 3-0 at home and away respectively last season before beating New Zealand 2-1 at home in January this year.
When the Blackcaps returned for a five-game ODI contest in April, Pakistan scripted a stellar 4-1 win, en route to which the team had claimed the No. 1 ranking spot for the first time under the reign of Babar.
Heading into the Afghanistan series, Pakistan were at the second spot with 115.8 rating points, behind top-ranked Australia (118). Pakistan now sit atop with 118.48 rating point, going past Australia only marginally in the rankings chart.
While Pakistan will be entering the Asia Cup as the No. 1 ranked side, they face stiff competition from India, who stand third in the table with 113 rating points and have the ability to dethrone their arch-rivals. Pakistan enter heavy favourites against qualifier Nepal in the 2023 Asia Cup opener on August 30, a win in which will see them consolidate their position atop with 119 rating points, but the side could slip to the second spot if they lose to India in the blockbuster clash on September 2 in Pallekele, Sri Lanka.
While an Asia Cup stunner against India will help Pakistan gain a major lead at the top of the table, a loss will only leave a leave the Babar-led side staging a fight alongside the Men in Blue to reclaim the top spot.