The HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) has become synonymous with quality cricket and the six league franchises are supported by passionate fans who give it their all to cheer their respective teams.
Over the course of four years, the matches between Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars have attracted large crowds, and massive viewership as fans anticipate the contests with bated breath.
Karachi and Lahore are the two biggest cities of the country and are also known globally for nurturing Pakistani cricketers.
A vast majority of cricket giants such as Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Saeed Anwar, Abdul Qadir, Wasim Akram, Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi, Moin Khan and Rashid Latif, learned their craft in their early teens on the streets of Karachi or the vast grounds of Lahore.
Even present-day stars like Sarfaraz Ahmed, Babar Azam and Shan Masood were first introduced to the game in these cities.
The two teams have so far failed in their quest for silverware as both have been unable to make it to the finals. Lahore Qalandars have never made it to the play-offs.
But with both teams set to play in front of impassioned fans at the National Stadium in Karachi and Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore, their performances are expected to surge to a new level.
The two games will be played within five days, with the tickets already in high demand. These matches are expected to be played in front of packed stadiums with vociferous support.
On what will be a "Super Sunday", Lahore Qalandars will host Karachi Kings in a night game on March 8 at Gaddafi Stadium.
On March 12, Karachi Kings will take the hosting responsibilities at the National Stadium.
The Kings have so far enjoyed an upper-hand over the Qalandars. They won both their encounters in the inaugural 2016 HBL PSL edition by seven wickets and 27 runs at the Dubai International Stadium and Sharjah Cricket Ground, respectively.
In the 2017 edition, the Qalandars recorded their first-ever win over the Kings when they beat them by seven runs in a thriller played at Sharjah.
The Kings, however, exacted revenge by recording a last-ball win courtesy a six by West Indian Kieron Pollard off Aamer Yamin when the two teams clashed at the Dubai International Stadium in their second match of the season.
The Kings were once again at the victorious end when they recorded a 27-run win at the Dubai International Stadium in the first match between the two sides in 2018.
The two sides played a spellbinding thriller in front of a packed Dubai International Stadium (the second match between the two teams of the 2018 season) which was won by the Qalandars, courtesy a sensational Super Over by Sunil Narine.
The match had ended in a tie, following a dramatic last ball by Usman Shinwari which was declared a no-ball for overstepping, with Qalandars needing three runs for a win.
Qalandars recorded a 22-run win in the first match of the HBL PSL 2019 season played at the Dubai International Stadium.
Kings then settled scores for the season with a five-wicket win when the two sides clashed once again in Dubai.
Major players in the two squads
Kings have assembled an explosive batting line-up for HBL PSL 2020 season with the ICC top-ranked batsman Babar Azam set to lead the batting charge along with England’s Alex Hales, South African Cameron Delport and Sharjeel Khan.
Babar, Hales, Sharjeel and Delport provide arguably the most explosive top-order in the season, if they come off, Kings would look to post 200-run totals in the season.
Delport smashed a scintillating 117 off 60 balls against Qalandars last season while representing United at the National Stadium, and would look to repeat the dose at his new franchise’s home turf.
The Kings' top-order, however, would be challenged by Qalandars’ pacy left-armers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Shinwari, who has moved to the Lahore side for this season. Pakistan’s new pace sensation Haris Rauf would also aim to mark his presence against the Kings top-order especially his T20I captain Babar.
On the other hand, Qalandars batsmen Chris Lynn, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Salman Butt, and Ben Dunk are likely to be tested by Kings' formidable bowling attack led by Mohammad Amir.
The left-armer will have England’s right-arm-pacer Chris Jordan and New Zealand’s left-armer Mitchell McClenaghan for company, backed by the experienced Umaid Asif.
Left-arm-spinners Imad Wasim and the last season's wonder kid Umar Khan provide further depth to the Kings' bowling line-up which will aim to keep the Qalandars batsmen in check on the batting-friendly tracks of Gaddafi Stadium and National Stadium.
Despite their less than satisfactory results in the first four seasons and the lack of silverware, both Kings and Qalandars have a huge fan base and some die-hard fans who would undoubtedly spur the two sides to greater things, especially on their home turfs.
While following the HBL PSL, Kings v Qalandars rivalry is one that no cricket fan can afford to miss.
Platinum – Babar Azam, Mohammad Amir and Alex Hales
Diamond – Imad Wasim (captain), Iftikhar Ahmed and Chris Jordan
Gold – Aamir Yamin, Sharjeel Khan and Cameron Delport
Silver - Usama Mir, Mohammad Rizwan, Umaid Asif, Chadwick Walton and Ali Khan
Emerging – Umer Khan and Arshad Iqbal
Supplementary – Mitch McClenaghan and Awais Zia
Platinum – Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez and Chris Lynn
Diamond – Shaheen Afridi, David Wiese and Usman Shinwari
Gold – Haris Rauf, Sohail Akhtar (captain) and Samit Patel
Silver – Salman Butt, Seekkuge Prsanna, Ben Dunk, Farzan Raja, Jaahid Ali
Emerging – Mohammad Faizan
Supplementary – Dane Vilas, Dilbar Hussain
— Courtesy of Pakistan Cricket Board.