Defending champions Islamabad United take on hometown favourites Karachi Kings tonight in the first Eliminator of Pakistan Super League 2019 at the National Stadium Karachi.
The equation is simple for both the sides: win or go home, which for the Kings only holds proverbial value as they are already in their home city.
However, it remains to be seen if home turf would actually net the Kings any tangible advantage because it probably didn't in their slim, one-run win over Quetta last week and certainly didn't in the 61-run drubbing they suffered at the hands of Peshawar Zalmi the next game.
Head to head
During the group stages, both Islamabad and Karachi won five games each and were solidly average. They were better than the bottom two but not quite as good as the top two.
While that piece of stat insinuates some parity between the two sides, the head-to-head comparison somewhat deflates the notion.
Islamabad won both the league fixtures against Karachi in the group stages, although in Karachi's defence, both the games went down to the wire.
Overall, the two sides have faced each other 11 times across the four PSL tournaments, with Islamabad winning seven and Karachi four. Moreover, United are riding a three-match winning streak against the Kings dating back to last year's tournament.
The Danger men
Luke Ronchi has not matched his scintillating form of 2018 form this year but he can still come do a job. The NSK boundaries have been extended but if Ronchi gets going, he can easily clear any boundary no matter how far.
Trouble for the Kings is that they won't have to just look out for Ronchi. His strike partner Cameron Delport also was in devastating form last time out, smashing an unbeaten 60-ball 117. The salvo provided by the foreigners up top is usually supplemented by late blitz from local talent Asif Ali, which gives the bowling side almost no time to relax.
Karachi's hopes from a batting standpoint are affixed to Babar Azam and Colin Ingram. Azam hasn't quite clicked in PSL 2019 the way the Kings hoped he would but still remains a threat. Ingram's wrecking act against the Gladiators in Sharjah was possibly the knock of the entire tournament. If he gets going, United could be in trouble.
On the bowling front, Usman Shinwari could be pivotal to Karachi's hopes, if he gets the nod. He has a tendency to blow hot and cold, and as leaky as he can be when he's cold, he can also pick wickets in bunches when hot.
Islamabad have the winning pedigree and the better set of players but Karachi have the home advantage and several guys who are due something big.
Cricket, or any sport for that matter, is about cold hard facts but is also about hope. It's just that facts and tangible edge have a greater propensity to materialise than conjecture and hope. Basing this on that principle alone, Islamabad should come out on top.
The writer is a cricket enthusiast from Karachi.