Multan Sultans and Islamabad United will play their final match of the round-robin stage of the 2022 Pakistan Super League tonight at Gaddafi Stadium Lahore. The match is to begin at 7:30pm.
Islamabad are unlucky that their final match is against the toughest opponent that this tournament (arguably) has ever had to offer. A match against Multan is like a match made in hell. They often bat first, which going by gully cricket rules is always annoying because who wants to toil in the field first? And then their openers often make world-class bowlers look like gully cricket bowlers.
Talk about Multan openers, and they are a story in themselves. The pairing of Shan Masood and Mohammad Rizwan is also super annoying for opposition fans. The clingy duo hangs on to their wickets as if their lives depend on them — something represented in the fact that their average opening stand for the entirety of this tournament has been a ridiculous 71.77.
And they don’t pull a Babar Azam or Sachin Tendulkar either. Their runs contribute fully to their teams’ cause as evident in their PSL 2022 strike rates of 142.90 (Masood) and 131.28 (Rizwan).
For a duo whose production rate is so high and efficient, one would expect them to be supremely ruthless and aggressive in attitude, eyeballing and cussing the bowler after every boundary and pointing the area where the next ball would go to Amir Sohail style. But instead, the Multan openers — one in particular — offer free hugs in return for any show of aggression by the bowlers.
But before we digress and go too far in waxing lyrical about this left-right combo, let’s bring this back on topic.
Multan are by far the best team in the tournament, with each and every batter of their top six capable of winning the game on their own.
In the opposite corner stand Islamabad United, battered and bruised. Their overseas openers Alex Hales and Paul Stirling, with whom they looked so strong early in the tournament, have both left them, leaving them with a top two of 20-year-old Rahmanullah Gurbaz and 19-year-old Mubasir Khan.
If that wasn’t all, their talismanic captain Shadab Khan has picked up a groin injury and is not expected to feature in tonight’s game as well. There are also question marks on the fitness of veteran batter Colin Munro and pacer Zeeshan Zameer. To add insult to injury (no pun intended), Hasan Ali also picked up a knock minutes before Friday’s loss to Lahore, further deepening the crisis.
Head to head
The last time these two met, Multan had piled up a huge score of 217 thanks to Rossouw and Tim David’s ridiculous hitting at the death. For Islamabad, skipper Shadab staged a one-man show but his 91 off 42 went in vain as his side fell 20 runs short.
Overall, these sides have played 10 matches, with both splitting it 5-5. Thus, this game would serve as a tiebreaker.
The easiest angle to take here would be backing Islamabad to win because they need to win and Multan don’t. But that would be a lazy point. If all goes according to plan, Multan only have three more matches left in this year’s competition with ample rest in between. Thus, they do not need to take their foot off the pedal and do not need to save their energies because they will have plenty of time to recuperate.
It would actually be a mistake to field a weak side and jeopardise the team’s winning momentum. And if Multan do play their full strength, it’s pretty much game over for Islamabad even before the coin for match toss is flipped — such is the gulf in the strength of these sides.