WITH Karachi Kings beating Lahore Qalandars comprehensively by 27 runs, the first quarter of Pakistan Super League (PSL) comes to an end in Dubai with, unsurprisingly, the ball having dominated the bat so far.

The second quarter of PSL kicks off in Sharjah from Feb 28, where the inaugural PSL champions Islamabad United will meet the two-time finalist Quetta Gladiators.

Apart from the first game where the wicket had grass, the lacklustre performances of the batsmen can hardly be attributed to the pitch. They have, entirely, been due to the batsmen’s inept approach to scoring runs. However, both Karachi Kings and new entrants Multan Sultans have put up an outstanding show thus far and have impressed the fans as well as the critics with their performance.

Speaking of failing horrendously with the bat, it is pertinent to mention Lahore Qalandars, who, as it seems now, have not learned a lesson from the previous two seasons. With a batting line-up that appears well and truly explosive, it has proved to be implosive more often than not.

They have had three of the worst batting collapses of PSL 2018 so far and, perhaps, will continue to suffer more if they don’t figure out the right team combination soon and the approach to bat through the middle overs. The fearless approach has ended up as misplaced aggression for them throughout and has only cost them more wickets than earning them good runs.

Islamabad United, on the other hand, have had a slow start. Misbah-ul-Haq’s hamstring injury ruled him out of the first two games and it remains to be seen whether he would be fit for the important clash against Quetta Gladiators or not. Rumman Raees has led the team in Misbah’s absence and has had mixed results until now.

Shadab Khan, the talented all-rounder, is yet to make an impact with both ball and bat but the man who showed a lot of character and promises to be a future star is Islamabad United’s line-up is Hussain Talat. He scored a brilliant 48 n.o. against Multan Sultans and saw his team over the line when they were in tatters after being reduced to 63-5 whilst chasing a modest total of 114.

Multan Sultans, the recent addition to the PSL family, have had a very fine start under Shoaib Malik’s leadership. They have managed to win two out of three games which is great going indeed. Being coached and mentored by Tom Moody and Wasim Akram respectively, the team continues to impress everyone and threatens to be the dark horse.

Imran Tahir and Junaid Khan have been the highlights of the season so far with the latter picking up a hat-trick against Lahore Qalandars. They could pose a serious challenge to other teams if they could continue to play the way they are.

The current champions, Peshawar Zalmi, however, would have wanted a better start than the one they have got this season. They have shown glimpses of brilliance but have, otherwise, largely failed to impress anyone at the time of writing this piece.

Their bowling looks weak without the services of Mohammad Hafeez and Shahid Afridi.While the former has been disallowed to bowl by the Pakistan Cricket Board after his bowling action was found illegal, the latter has moved to Karachi Kings for PSL season three and is doing well.

However, the 19-year-old Ibtisam Sheikh has been one of the stars for Peshawar Zalmi and might play a key role if Peshawar Zalmi are to qualify for the play-offs.

The two-time finalist, Quetta Gladiators were caught off-guard in their opening match against Karachi Kings but then made a strong comeback against Lahore Qalandars. Perhaps, it is too early to say anything about their future graph, but Quetta Gladiators as often has been proven in the past, always manage to find their mojo at the right time. And, who knows, they might turn out to be third time lucky after all.

Karachi Kings, this time around, look in much better shape and have made a thunderous start to their PSL campaign. Their team combination may not seem appealing to everyone but they have managed to come out trumps in all of their three outings. If they could continue to surprise themselves and their fans like this, who knows they might become the first team in the history of PSL to play the final at their home-ground.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2018

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