The third edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) is living up to expectations. As the Dubai leg of the event came to a close on February 26, let's look at what stood out the most during those matches.
The PSL is rightly credited for unearthing potential gems from the local talent pool and polishing them for the bigger stage. This year is no different.
Nineteen-year-old Ibtisam Sheikh of Peshawar Zalmi is showing great potential with his tricky leg-break bowling and athletic fielding. He has grabbed five wickets in three matches, with his best figures of 3/20.
Another name to watch out for is 17-year-old Shaheen Shah Afridi of Lahore Qalandars. A left-armer with height and decent swing, he has all the ingredients to become a lethal fast bowler. Although he has yet to claim a wicket this season, there's enough talent in him to go on and do great things.
Hussain Talat of Islamabad United produced a solid knock of 48*(34) against Multan Sultans, helping his team chase down 114. His innings, which included four 4s and three 6s, earned him his maiden man-of-the-match award.
Thirty-three- year-old Umaid Asif of Peshawar Zalmi also earned himself similar honours for his bowling figures of 4/23 against Islamabad United.
Karachi Kings are to watch out for
Of the many pleasant surprises this season, one that’s hardest to miss is the shift in the fortunes of Karachi Kings.
Sitting at the top of the table, the Kings are unbeaten in the tournament so far, much to the joy of their massive fan base.
Their success is being credited mostly to the new man in charge Imad Wasim, under whom the team seems to have gelled together brilliantly.
Shahid Afridi’s impact can’t be ignored either; whether or not he scores with the bat is secondary to the fact that his bowling spells and on-field athleticism have helped the Kings put up a spectacular show.
Other names to shine for Karachi are Colin Ingram and Ravi Bopara, both of who have added stability to the middle order.
It’s also important to underscore the role of Mickey Arthur who, having spent a while as Pakistan’s head coach now, has accumulated valuable insight into the local talent pool.
Catches win matches
The PSL 2018 is making waves for its dazzling display of fielding as well — something you don't associate with Pakistan cricket. In only the first eight games we've seen some impeccable catches taken one after the other. Here are the top picks:
- [Multan vs Peshawar - Feb 22] Junaid Khan's spectacular forward dive to send Tamim Iqbal back to the dugout.
- [Karachi vs Quetta - Feb 23] That one-handed beauty, the boundary flip and that swift carry thereon was possibly the most glorious catch of Shahid Afridi's career.
- [Lahore vs Karachi - Feb 26] Boundary catches are quite the challenge but this brilliant, coordinated effort by Shaheen Shah Afridi and Umar Akmal was a show of its own.
- [Lahore v Karachi - Feb 26] How often do we get to see two (or in this case three) breathtaking catches in one night? Karachi's Joe Denly, now being termed their Jonty Rhodes, made a herculean effort at point that resembled some form of CGI.
It is difficult to ignore the bowler-friendly nature of Dubai’s pitch that has kept teams from scoring sizable totals. Of the eight games that have been played so far, only on two instances have the scores crossed 160.
The highest first-innings score so far has been 179 by Multan Sultans against Lahore Qalandars in the third match, while Zalmi’s 176 against Islamabad United in the fourth game stands at number two.
One reason for this is the Dubai pitch that has offered a lot of help to the bowlers, especially spinners.
The captains have been banking on their spin options to take wickets and restrict runs, and quite successfully so, as seen in some superb spells by Imran Tahir, Umaid Asif and Shahid Afridi.
It is hoped that the Sharjah leg will give us some high-scoring contests.
The importance of the Decision Review System
The Decision Review System (DRS) has been introduced for the entirety of the league this year and has proven to be a decisive tool.
This was a much-needed change following last season's questionable umpiring that provoked much debate about the overall standard of the league.
So far this season, 18 decisions have already been challenged and six of them have been revoked. It can be foreseen that the DRS will become more integral and valuable to the teams as the tournament progresses and the stakes get higher.