LAHORE: Hunting for a victory to secure a certain place in the last four, Lahore Qalandars will take on leaders Multan Sultans in their last match of the round stage in the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) in front of an empty Gaddafi Stadium here on Sunday.
It is the lone match of the league which is being held at the Gaddafi Stadium under the sun light, starting at 2.00p.m. The venue will also hold the first semifinal in daylight on March 17 followed by the second semifinal in the night, after the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) changed the schedule of the matches in view of several measures taken for the safety of the players and fans amid growing threat of the corona virus.
Despite the exodus of many foreign players from the franchises on Friday, the suspense in the last leg of PSL remains intact as except Multan Sultans the fate of the other five teams depend on the results of the last round matches being played in Karachi and Lahore.
If the Qalandars, which have come from behind to be a serious contender for the semifinal stage, beat Sultans today, their place in the semifinal will be confirmed as it will raise their points from eight to ten. But in case of defeat, Qalandars’ chances of defending champions Quetta Gladiators who will be meeting Karachi Kings on Sunday night in Karachi will again come to alive, as the last day’s matches (on Sunday) are vital to decide the other two semifinalists. On the Saturday’s night, a crucial match between Karachi Kings and Islamabad United is also going to be held in Karachi to decide one of the remaining semifinalist. In case of Kings’s victory they will qualify for the semifinal and in case of defeat, all five teams will be waiting for the results of the two matches scheduled for Sunday.
Meanwhile, Qalandars, whose four matches winning streak ended by Kings in the last match with ten wickets win, has a very plus point to their credit as none of their foreign players have left them despite the corona virus threat. Nearly all of their match-winners including Ben Dunk, Samit Patel, Chris Lynn, David Weise, DJ Vilas and S Prasana are available to them and participated in a hectic practice session at the Gaddafi Stadium on Saturday.
Qalandars have a good number of performers to give tough time to Sultans to reserve a place in the last four. Their match-winning batsmen are including of most destructive Ben Dunk, Mohammad Hafeez, captain Sohail Akhtar and Chris Lynn, while Samit Patel as all-rounder is also making good contribution as batsman. In the bowling department, dashing pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi with 11 wickets to his credit leads the pack while Samit with nine wickets is also a dangerous bowler.
Meanwhile, Multan Sultans are to land in Lahore from Karachi after beating Peshawar Zalmis, another candidate for the semifinal stage, on Saturday night. Though Sultans are riding a crest of wave, they are bound to feel the absence of their two key foreign players Rilee Rossouw and James Vince when they take the field.
However, talented English cricketers Moeen Ali and Ravi Bopara, and South African Imran Tahir are still in the Sultans’ ranks and can be a handfull if on song. Captain Shan Masood, Shahid Afridi, Zeeshan Ashraf along with Moeen are the main batting stars of Sultans while bowlers like Sohail Tanvir, emerging fast bowler Mohammad Ilyas and Ali Shafiq are also looking good besides spinner Moeen and Imran Tahir.
Shan Masood (captain), Moeen Ali, Shahid Afridi, Zeeshan Ashraf (wicketkeeper), Khushdil Shah, Sohail Tanvir, Muhammad Irfan, Ravi Bopara, Imran Tahir, Ali Shafiq, Rohail Nazir, Bilawal Bhatti, Muhammad Ilyas, Junaid Khan.
Sohail Akhtar (captain), Muhammad Hafeez, Chris Lynn, Ben Dunk, Samit Patel, David Wiese, DJ Vilas, S Prasanna, Shaheen Afridi, Dilber Hussain, Hussain Rauf, Salman Irshad, Usman Shinwari, Salman Butt, Maaz Khan, Raja Faraz.
Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2020