MULTAN Sultans’ captain Shan Masood attends a news conference at the Gaddafi Stadium on Thursday.—M. Arif/White Star
MULTAN Sultans’ captain Shan Masood attends a news conference at the Gaddafi Stadium on Thursday.—M. Arif/White Star

LAHORE: All is set here for the second match of the 5th HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2020 and the first to be played at the Gaddafi Stadium between Lahore Qalandars and Multan Sultans on Friday night.

Both Multan Sultans and Lahore Qalandars had finished at the last two positions of 5th and 6th in the last edition of the league. In fact, the past performances of the Qalandars are not much impressive at all as it had finished at the bottom in all the last four editions.

The Sultans, who joined the league from the third edition in 2018 also have to prove their credentials with an improved performance this season.

Going by their last four outings against each other, both the Qalandars and the Sultans are on an even keel. Lahore had defeated Sultans by six wickets in Dubai in 2018 and again by the identical margin in Sharjah last year, Sultans had won their first match against Qalandars in 2018 by 43 runs and then in 2019 they remained winner by seven wickets in a low scoring match.

However, the significant change this year is that both the teams will be in the arena with new captains. While the Qalandars have brought in little-known Sohail Akhtar as skipper, replacing dashing opener Fakhar Zaman, the Sultans have replaced Shoaib Malik with Shan Masood who is otherwise not a T20 specialist.

The appointments of both Sohail and Shan have been surprising as both have never played any T20 international for Pakistan. Both the skippers have seasoned international players in their teams. The Qalandars feature Pakistani players like Mohammad Hafeez, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Salman Butt in their line-up, Sultans have experienced guys like BoomBoom Shahid Afridi, dangerous T20 bowler Sohail Tanvir, Junaid Khan and Muhammad Irfan.

The weather, however, can play some tricks on Friday as intermittent light rain was experienced in Lahore on Thursday and more rain is forecast in the next few hours.

Meanwhile, in their pre-match pressers, Qalandars’ head coach Aaqib Javed and Sultans’skipper Shan looked excited that all the matches of the league are being held in Pakistan.

“It will be the first time that Lahore Qalandars will play a league’s match in Lahore mainly because we could not qualify for the finals in the past, and most of the matches were also held in the UAE” said former Test medium pacer Aaqib.

“Unfortunately the performances of my team have not been up to the mark but we are not disheartened and we will try to give our best as the team is well balanced,” he said. “Our main strength is fast bowling attack which is blessed with in form Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Shinwari and the newest sensation Haris Rauf who can create problems for any team, especially in the death overs,” Aaqib said.

Aaqib said the appointment of Sohail as captain was taken after a well thought out process and the all-rounder is all set to deliver his best. He said as Sohail had been available with the team throughout the year, he knows the strength of each and every player.

He said as the match had to start at 8.00p.m dew factor is likely to play a role in the match as the spin bowlers would not remain much effective and burden would be on the pacers.

Meanwhile, Shan said though as captain it was a testing time for him but it was also providing him an opportunity to show his talent. He admitted that the performance of a captain was much important for any team, but he added a skipper had to excel in many other departments of the game. Shan said that he learnt from former coach of Pakistan Andy Flower that a captain should keep a focus on his batting whenever he bats, so, he would not take any pressure of captaincy while batting.

Shan said his team is well balanced as some changes have been made. “We have a very good spin attack comprising Chris Lyon, Ravi Bopara, Moeen Ali, Khushdil Shah and Shahid Afridi besides an effective pace attack comprising experienced trio of Muhammad Irfan, Junaid Khan and Sohail Tanvir..

To a question Shan said though the Qalandars could have a good support from home crowed, his team had the plan to play good cricket according to a strategy. He said his team would also play three matches at the Multan Stadium so would also have the same advantage there.

To a question about his inexperience in T20 cricket, Shan said he is working on his limited overs game and is improving day by day.

Teams:

Lahore Qalandars: Sohail Akhtar (c), Shaheen Afridi, Jaahid Ali, Salman Butt, Ben Dunk (wk, AUS), Mohammad Faizan, Mohammad Hafeez, Dilbar Hussain, Chris Lynn (AUS), Samit Patel (ENG), Seekkuge Prasanna (SL), Farzan Raja, Haris Rauf, Usman Shinwari, Dane Vilas (wk, SA), David Wiese (SA), Fakhar Zaman.

Multan Sultans: Shan Masood (c), Moeen Ali (ENG), Shahid Afridi, Fabian Allen (WI, from March 7), Zeeshan Ashraf, Bilawal Bhatti, Ravi Bopara (ENG), Mohammad Ilyas, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan, Wayne Madsen (ENG, until March 7), Rohail Nazir (wk), Rilee Rossouw (SA), Usman Qadir, Ali Shafiq, Khushdil Shah, Imran Tahir (SA), Sohail Tanvir, James Vince (ENG).

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2020