Reeling at the bottom of ODI team ranking, Pakistan has eyes set on direct qualification for the ICC Cricket World Cup when it takes on the in-form reigning world champion and number-one ranked Australia in a five-ODI series starting in Brisbane on Friday.
Former world champion Pakistan is presently in serious danger of failing to qualify directly for the ICC's pinnacle 50-over tournament in the United Kingdom as it is sitting in eighth position on 89 points, two behind Bangladesh and two ahead of the West Indies.
Host England and the seven highest-ranked sides on the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Team Rankings as on 30 September 2017 will qualify directly for the event proper to be held from 30 May to 15 July 2019.
The four bottom-ranked sides will be joined by six teams from the ICC World Cricket League in the 10-team ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 and the top two sides will complete the 10-team World Cup line-up.
To, at least, maintain its pre-series ranking points, Pakistan needs to win one match of the series, while victories in more than one match will earn it crucial points.
If Pakistan wins two matches, then it will join Bangladesh on 91 points but will be ranked behind its Asian rivals by a fraction. In the scenario of Pakistan winning the series, it will move ahead of Bangladesh and, as such, will enhance its chances of qualifying directly for the event it won in Australia in 1992.
On the other side of the coin, Australia will retain its pre-series points if it wins the series 4-1, while it will concede one point if it wins 3-2. Australia can fall from the top pedestal but to make it happen, Pakistan will have to win by 4-1 or better. However, considering that Australia leads Pakistan 33-16 on a head-to-head in its backyard, including 15 wins in 19 ODIs this decade, this looks highly improbable.
Meanwhile, India will be aiming to narrow the gap with second-ranked South Africa when the third-ranked side takes on fifth-ranked England in a three-ODI series starting in Pune on January 15.
India can rise to as high as 114 points if it sweeps the series, but if the series result is reversed, then England can move up one place to fourth and India can slide to fifth.
In the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Player Rankings, newly appointed India captain Virat Kohli has number-one ranked AB de Villiers of South Africa firmly within his sights. The Delhi batsman, who led India to victory in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2008 in Malaysia, trails the South Africa star by 13 points.
David Warner, who destroyed Pakistan's bowling in Sydney, is ranked third just two points behind Kohli. England's Joe Root is seventh, whereas Pakistan's highest-ranked batsman is Babar Azam in 15th position.
Mitchell Starc, who was the Player of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, will start as the highest-ranked bowler in the upcoming One-Day International matches. He trails New Zealand's number-one ranked Trent Boult by 13 points.
England's Adil Rashid will start in fifth position, India's Amit Mishra will begin in 12th spot and 39th-ranked Wahab Riaz of Pakistan is his side's highest-ranked bowler.