Friday, September 30, 2022

PCB: Cut-throat playoffs on the cards

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  • Wednesday’s fixture – Multan Sultans vs Lahore Qalandars
  • Thursday’s fixture – Peshawar Zalmi vs Islamabad United
  • The official nomenclature of the tournament is HBL PSL. Media houses are instructed to use correct event nomenclature in all texts, headlines and bulletins

After 30 thrilling and exciting league matches, it is time for the big ones in the HBL Pakistan Super League 2022 when defending champions Multan Sultans take on Lahore Qalandars in Wednesday’s Qualifier and Peshawar Zalmi go toe to toe against Islamabad United in Eliminator 1.

The winner of Wednesday fixture will progress to Sunday’s final, while the losing side will have another opportunity to qualify for the title match when they will meet Thursday’s winner on Friday.

In this glorious game of uncertainties, its always difficult to predict winners but on present form, it appears the sides meeting on Wednesday may again face off against each other on Sunday.

Defending champions Multan Sultans won a record nine matches on their way to the playoff stage, while Lahore Qalandars lost four matches, including a Super Over thriller against Peshawar Zalmi on Monday. This gave Peshawar Zalmi their sixth win to tie with Lahore Qalandars, but were placed third on net run-rate. Islamabad United’s four wins were enough to put them in the top-four ahead of Quetta Gladiators (on net run-rate), while Karachi Kings managed just one win in 10 matches.

In the double-league stage, Sultans defeated Qalandars by five wickets but Qalandars came back strongly to win the return match by a convincing 52-run margin. Similar is the story between Zalmi and United. United recorded a one-sided nine-wicket victory in the first match between the two sides at the National Stadium, before Zalmi held their serves to register a 10-run victory at the Gaddafi Stadium.

Overall, Sultans appears to be the side that has all its bases covered.

In this edition, they have posted totals of 245-3 (v Quetta Gladiators), 222-3 (v Peshawar Zalmi), 217-5 (v Islamabad United) and 209-5 (v Lahore Qalandars). And this is reflected in the batting table on which Mohammad Rizwan is sitting second with 479 runs and his fellow opener Shan Masood is third on 457 runs.

Sultans’ wrist-spinner Imran Tahir is second most successful bowler with 16 wickets, while left-arm spinner Khushdil Shah has 15 wickets. Shahnawaz Dahani has bagged 13 wickets. The three have contributed to keep the opposition to low scores. Qalandars’ 206 for five was the highest total against Sultans, though Sultans won that game by five wickets following a 150-run stand between Shan Masood (83) and Mohammad Rizwan (69). The lowest total against Sultans was 105-7, scored by Islamabad United on Sunday.

Despite their title-drought, Lahore Qalandars remain the fans’ favourite. And this edition, they have displayed that they have the potential, talent and skill to end the disappointment.

Fakhar Zaman with 521 runs is the most successful batter while Kamran Ghulam has scored 234 runs, Mohammad Hafeez 226 runs, Harry Brook 208 runs and Abdullah Shafique 180 runs. Amongst the bowlers, Shaheen Shah Afridi has led from the front and by example by claiming 15 wickets, followed by Zaman Khan (14 wickets) and Haris Rauf (13 wickets). Rashid Khan also picked up 13 wickets but will not be available as he is now on national duty.

Islamabad’s batting has revolved around Alex Hales (255 runs), Shadab Khan (232 runs) and Paul Stirling (187). However, Hales and Stirling will definitely not be available, while there is a question mark on Shadab Khan. This makes Azam Khan the only in-form batter with 228 runs at a staggering strike-rate of 143.

In the bowling, Shadab Khan leads the pack with 17 wickets, while Waqas Maqsood has picked up 11 wickets.

Salman Irshad is Peshawar Zalmi’s most successful bowler with 12 wickets, followed by Wahab Riaz (nine wickets) and Usman Qadir (eight wickets), while Shoaib Malik has been leading the batting responsibilities with 346 runs, followed by Ben Cutting (197 runs) and Hazratullah Zarzai (170 runs).

When these sides will take the field on Wednesday and Thursday, it will be a new day, a new surface and a new match. And as experts say, sides that will capitalise on most of the opportunities will come out winners.

As such, all to look out for and a lot to play for over the next three days. But irrespective of the outcomes of these matches, the overwhelming response from the fans have undoubtedly made this year’s HBL PSL the most successful and viewed competition.

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