LAHORE: The HBL Pakistan Super League 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 the four editions, the contests between Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars have attracted large crowds in the stadiums and massive viewership on TVs and fans look ahead to them with bated breath.
Karachi and Lahore are the two biggest cities of the country and are also known the world over as the traditional nurseries of Pakistan cricket.
After independence a vast majority of Pakistan’s cricket greats the likes of Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Saeed Anwar, Abdul Qadir, Wasim Akram, Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi, Moin Khan and Rashid Latif to name a few, learned their craft in their early teens on the streets of Karachi or the vast grounds of Lahore.
Even the present day stars like Sarfraz Ahmed, Babar Azam and Shan Masood had their first introduction to cricket in these nurseries.
The two teams have so far failed in their quest for silverware as both have failed to make it to the finals. Lahore Qalandars, however, have never made it to the play-offs.
But with both teams set to play in front of their impassioned fans at the National Stadium in Karachi and Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium Lahore, respectively, in this season, their performances are expected to surge to a new level.
The two group-stage games will be played within five days and with the tickets already in high demand. These matches are expected to be played in front of jam-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 Pakistan’s home of cricket Gaddafi Stadium, while on March 12, Karachi Kings will take the hosting responsibilities as the iconic National Stadium will stage the much-anticipated contest.
The Kings have so far enjoyed an upper-hand on the Qalandars. They won both their encounters in the inaugural 2016 PSL edition by seven wickets and 27 runs in Dubai and Sharjah respectively.
In the 2017 edition, Qalandars recorded their first-ever win over Kings when they beat them by seven runs in a thriller played in Sharjah. Kings, however, extracted revenge by recording a last-ball win courtesy a six by West Indian Kieron Pollard off Aamir Yamin when the two teams clashed in Dubai in their second match of the season.
Kings were once again at the victorious end when they recorded a 27-run win in Dubai during the first match between the two sides of the 2018 edition.
The two sides played a spellbinding thriller in front of a packed Dubai crowd (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 Khan 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 2019 season played in Dubai.
Kings then settled scores for the season with a five-wicket win when the two sides clashed once again in Dubai.
Kings have assembled an explosive batting line-up for the 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 though 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.
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 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.
KARACHI KINGS: Imad Wasim (captain), Babar Azam, Mohammad Amir, Alex Hales, Iftikhar Ahmed, Chris Jordan, Aamir Yamin, Sharjeel Khan, Cameron Delport, Usama Mir, Mohammad Rizwan, Umaid Asif, Chadwick Walton, Ali Khan, Umar Khan, Arshad Iqbal, Mitchell McClenaghan, Awais Zia.
LAHORE QALANDARS: Sohail Akhtar (captain), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Chris Lynn, Shaheen Shah Afridi, David Wiese, Usman Khan Shinwari, Haris Rauf, Samit Patel, Salman Butt, Seekkuge Prsanna, Ben Dunk, Farzan Raja, Jaahid Ali, Mohammad Faizan, Dane Vilas, Dilbar Hussain.
Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2020