LAHORE: It’s serious business time at the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL). The losers will crash out, so there is no room for complacency.

While Islamabad United got a big boost of their key batter Alex Hales, Peshawar Zalmi trio of leg-spinner Usman Qadir, all-rounder Ben Cutting and fast bowler Sohail Khan are out of action after having tested positive for Covid-19 the other day as both the teams clash in Eliminator 1 here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Thursday.

Right-handed opener Hales, who had left the HBL PSL on Feb 15 due to bio-secure bubble fatigue, will be available for the remaining games of the league.

Islamabad are also hoping that their captain and top wicket-taker of this HBL PSL Shadab Khan, who is undergoing extensive rehab to recover from fitness problems, returns to action for the all-important match.

Meanwhile, England’s batting all-rounder Will Jacks has also completed his isolation period and will be available for selection in today’s all-important game.

On the other hand, the developing scenario does not seem favourable for Peshawar as Usman, Cutting and Sohail are out after failing Covid test. All three had missed Peshawar’s last league-stage match against Lahore Qalandars which the former won in Super Over.

In the league stage, both Islamabad and Peshawar won one match against each other.

The Wahab Riaz-led Peshawar, who ended the league stage at third spot with 12 points, will surely take heart from their Super Over triumph over Lahore, have the services of veteran batter Shoaib Malik who is the fourth highest scorer (346 runs) of this HBL PSL.

Fourth-placed Islamabad, who made the playoffs with just eight points on having better run-rate than Quetta Gladiators, perhaps will need to lift their game a bit more in the do-or-die encounter today.

WIth Hales back in the side and Shadab being the leading wicket-taker (17 in seven games) of the ongoing edition, they will fancy their chances.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2022

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