KARACHI: Quetta Gladiators have definitely all bases covered but they will be hoping for a winning start to their title defence when they clash with Islamabad United in the opening fixture of HBL Pakistan Super League 2020 at the National Stadium here on Thursday.
The match, officially slated to begin at 9:00pm, will be preceded by a colourful ceremony during which around 350 artistes will perform. The focus will be obviously on cricket with 34 fixtures to be played over the course of 32 days,
Being an all-night game, the all-important toss gains great significance because chasing under lights here can be tricky if the side batting first racks up a total in the 180-200 range.
Sarfraz Ahmed, the only player to lead his franchise in every season, expects a high-scoring encounter because the pitch for first game kooks a belter with the outfield set to be lightning fast.
“Last year we saw high-scoring matches in Karachi and I’m hopeful the quality of cricket will be even much better this time,” Sarfraz told a pre-match media briefing on Wednesday. “I’m sure the fans will enjoy some great matches coming up over the next four weeks [of the competition].
The Gladiators skipper, who until last October remained Pakistan across all three formats, expressed optimism that his side doesn’t get complacent and meet the same fate which Peshawar Zalmi had to face when debutants Multan Sultans stunned the then reigning champions by seven wickets in game one of the 2018 edition .
“That has only happened only once but we will definitely not want to have a repeat here. The confidence within the ranks is high and squad we have now is well-balanced. Our batting looks stronger with the return of Jason Roy, who will open [the batting] with Shane Watson, while Ahmed Shehzad will bat at No 3,” Sarfraz said. “On the bowling front we have to keep Naseem Shah under check because of fitness issues. He is currently going through a rehab process.
“We’ll not take chance with him because being so young, Naseem is an asset for Pakistan. Hopefully, we are expecting to make good recovery and expect great things from him.”
Sarfraz, looking fresh and smart, welcome the foreign players participating in the PSL. “It is a very good sign that all the teams are getting full support from the fans. “All foreign players who have already come and are due to arrive are now beginning to realize that Pakistan is safe for cricket.
“But players still hold reservations and eyed the situation here with a negative mindset that the security situation is not good in our country. Even Shane Watson has to be convinced to come last year. But when he personally experienced the atmosphere here, it was easy for him to decide to what to do this year and here he is.
“I am very hopeful that PSL being held in its entirety from this year will encourage other international teams coming Pakistan in the future.”
Islamabad United’s young captain Shadab Khan had no prior experience of leadership but the leg-spinner sounded confidence in his maiden presser in the role.
“It will be easy to captain the side with the seasoned international players I’ve around me. “The foreign players during the practice matches felt very happy to see people so excited to see them. They really want to do it for the fans,” the 21-year-old remarked.
“After all we are the two-time champions. The balance we have in our squad is such that we will surely go for another [title].”
Shadab praised Sarfraz for his work ethics which enabled the doughty wicket-keeper/batsman to lose weight.
“Sarfraz has worked hard on himself and looks super-fit. I hope he enjoys a good tournament.
“But we will definitely miss Mohammad Sami this time. He has always performed for Islamabad United.”
QUETTA GLADIATORS: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Jason Roy, Mohammad Nawaz, Shane Watson, Ahmed Shehzad, Ben Cutting, Umar Akmal, Mohammad Hasnain, Fawad Ahmed, Naseem Shah, Ahsan Ali, Sohail Khan, Tymal Mills, Abdul Nasir, Aarish Ali Khan, Azam Khan, Khurram Manzoor, Zahid Mahmood
ISLAMABAD UNITED: Shadab Khan (captain), Colin Ingram Asif Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Colin Munro, Luke Ronchi, Hussain Talat, Rumman Raees Khan, Amad Butt, Mohammad Musa Khan, Zafar Gohar, Rizwan Hussain, Phil Salt, Akif Javed, Ahmed Safi Abdullah, Saif Badar, Dawid Malan.
HBL Pakistan Super League 2020 schedule
Feb 20: Quetta Gladiators vs Islamabad United (Karachi, 9:00pm-12:15am).
Feb 21: Karachi Kings vs Peshawar Zalmi (Karachi, 3:00pm-6:15pm).
Feb 21: Lahore Qalandars vs Multan Sultans (Lahore, 8:00pm-11:15pm).
Feb 22: Quetta Gladiators vs Peshawar Zalmi (Karachi, 2:00pm-5:15pm).
Feb 22: Islamabad United vs Multan Sultans (Lahore, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
Feb 23: Karachi Kings vs Quetta Gladiators (Karachi, 2:00pm-5:15pm).
Feb 23: Lahore Qalandars vs Islamabad United (Lahore, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
Feb 24: Rest Day.
Feb 25: Rest Day.
Feb 26: Multan Sultans vs Peshawar Zalmi (Multan, 7:00m-10:15pm).
Feb 27: Islamabad United vs Quetta Gladiators (Rawalpindi, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
Feb 28: Multan Sultans vs Karachi Kings (Multan, 3:00pm-6:15pm).
Feb 28: Peshawar Zalmi vs Lahore Qalandars (Rawalpindi, 8:00pm-11:15pm).
Feb 29: Multan Sultans vs Quetta Gladiators (Multan, 2:00pm-5:15pm).
Feb 29: Islamabad United vs Peshawar Zalmi (Rawalpindi, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
March 1: Islamabad United vs Karachi Kings (Rawalpindi, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
March 2: Peshawar Zalmi vs Karachi Kings (Rawalpindi, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
March 3: Quetta Gladiators vs Lahore Qalandars (Lahore, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
March 4: Islamabad United vs Lahore Qalandars (Lahore, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
March 5: Peshawar Zalmi vs Quetta vs Gladiators Rawalpindi, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
March 6: Karachi Kings vs Multan Sultans (Lahore, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
March 7: Peshawar Zalmi vs Islamabad United (Rawalpindi, 2:00pm-5:15pm).
March 7: Lahore Qalandars vs Quetta Gladiators (Lahore, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
March 8: Multan Sultans vs Islamabad United (Rawalpindi, 2:00pm-5:15pm).
March 8: Lahore Qalandars vs Karachi Kings (Lahore, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
March 9: Rest Day.
March 10: Lahore Qalandars vs Peshawar Zalmi (Lahore, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
March 11: Quetta Gladiators vs Multan Sultans (Lahore, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
March 12: Karachi Kings vs Lahore Qalandars (Karachi, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
March 13: Peshawar Zalmi vs Multan Sultans (Karachi, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
March 14: Karachi Kings vs Islamabad (Karachi, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
March 15: Multan Sultans vs Lahore Qalandars (Lahore, 2:00pm-5:15pm).
March 15: Quetta Gladiators vs Karachi Kings (Karachi, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
March 16: Rest Day.
March 17: Qualifier — 1 vs 2 — (Karachi, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
March 18: Eliminator 1 — 3 vs 4 — (Lahore, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
March 19: Rest Day.
March 20: Eliminator 2 — Qualifier losers vs Eliminator 1 winners — (Lahore, 7:00pm-10:15pm).
March 21: Rest Day.
March 22: Final (Lahore, 7:00pm).
Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2020