ISLAMABAD - After featuring in one of the most thrilling and competitive Test series in recent times, Pakistan cricket team shifts its focus to white-ball cricket when it plays Ireland in Dublin today (Thursday) and Friday (tomorrow), and then England in a five-ODI series, beginning from August 24.

Up for grabs for ninth-ranked Pakistan are invaluable rankings points, which can potentially go a long way in helping it qualify automatically for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, while Ireland can improve its ranking of 12th and England can consolidate its fifth position, according to the latest team ranking chart issued by International Cricket Council team on Wednesday. The 1992 world champions are presently languishing on 87 points - seven points behind eighth-ranked 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 ICC's pinnacle 50-over tournament. This means Pakistan finds itself in a situation where it cannot afford any further slip-ups if it is keen to avoid having to play in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018.

The four bottom-ranked sides on the ODI table will be joined by six teams from the ICC World Cricket League Championship and ICC World Cricket League in the 10-team qualifying competition. The top two sides will complete the 10-team line-up for the event proper to be staged from May 30 to July 15, 2019.

In the forthcoming matches, Pakistan not only has a chance to close the gap with the West Indies but it can move ahead of the two-time former world champion by a fraction of a point. However, to make this happen, it will have to win every match against Ireland and England.

The incentive for 12th-ranked Ireland in the upcoming series is massive as well. If it wins both the matches against Pakistan, it will leapfrog Zimbabwe and Afghanistan into 10th position on 53 points, while Pakistan will plummet to 83 points. A 1-all draw will mean Ireland will move ahead of Zimbabwe in 11th position on 48 points, while Pakistan will drop to 85 points. The only way Pakistan can stay on 87 points is by winning both the matches and this is because it enters the series leading Ireland by 44 points, and because the rankings are weighted to reflect this difference, it is expected to win the series convincingly.

If England beats Pakistan and Sri Lanka defeats Australia by  identical 5-0 margins, then England will finish on 109 points, Sri Lanka on 108 points while Australia will retain its number-one position though its 10-point advantage over second-ranked New Zealand will be reduced to just two points.

On the other side of the coin, if Australia wins all the five matches of the series, then it will rise to 126 points (up by three points), while Sri Lanka will slip to 99 points (down by three points).

Meanwhile, England's Joe Root and Australia's Mitchell Starc will start as the highest-ranked batsman and bowler, respectively, in the upcoming matches.

Root is in seventh position at 741 points in a list which is headed by AB de Villiers of South Africa with 887 points. Tillakaratne Dilshan of Sri Lanka (10th), Australia's David Warner (12th), Pakistan's Mohammad Hafeez (23rd) and Ireland's Ed Joyce (24th) are expected to start as their countries' highest-ranked batsmen.

Apart from Starc, Australia also boasts Josh Hazlewood inside the top 20 while 15th-ranked Moeen Ali is England's highest-ranked bowler to challenge Pakistan, which boasts Wahab Riaz and Yasir Shah just outside the top 50 in 53rd and 57th positions, respectively. The bowlers' list is headed by the West Indies' Sunil Narine, with Trent Boult of New Zealand second and Shakib Al Hasan of Bangladesh third.