LAHORE: Pakistan’s current and former Test captains, Shan Masood and Babar Azam, are up against each other at the Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday with both having identical aims of leading their respective sides to their first points of the ongoing HBL Pakistan Super League season.

Shan’s Karachi Kings lost their opening game to Multan Sultans on Sunday, when Babar’s Peshawar Zalmi opened with a defeat to Quetta Gladiators.

Zalmi opener Saim Ayb said his side would be looking to put behind them the 16-run loss to the Gladiators where they were restricted to 190-6 in their chase of 207.

“We fought well against the Gladiators but ended on the losing side,” he told reporters after a practice session at the LCCA Ground on Tuesday. “We will try our best not to repeat the mistakes we did in the opening match and get our first win.”

Saim scored 42 against the Gladiators, giving his side a flying start alongside Babar. But once the duo were back in the pavilion, Zalmi’s chase floundered.

“In the T20 format, you have to keep up the momentum till the end and we are willing to fight till the end against the Kings,” added Saim.

Kings, on the other hand, were well beaten by the Sultans, who cruised to a 55-run victory. Like Saim, Kings spinner Tabraiz Shamsi was also looking forward rather than dwelling on the past.

“We will take a fresh start now,” Shamsi told reporters after Tuesday’s practice. “Last season, we lost some games by the narrowest of margins and failed to make the playoffs but it doesn’t matter now. Our target is to reach the final this season and we’ve to start by playing a good game tomorrow.”

BACK-TO-BACK LOSSES

In the day’s other game in Multan, the Sultans face holders Lahore Qalandars, who have opened their title defence with back-to-back losses.

“The entire tournament is still to play and we will stage a comeback so our fans shouldn’t lose hope,” Qalandars’ all-rounder Jahandad Khan told a news conference after his side’s five-wicket loss to the Gladiators on Monday, which came after they were beaten by Islamabad United in the opening game of the season.

His skipper Shaheen Shah Afridi had a more brutal assessment of what his side need to do.

“We must improve our fielding,” Shaheen said at the post-match presentation. “We are leaking boundaries and dropping catches easily.”

Shaheen also backed the struggling Haris Rauf to come up with the goods in the next match. Haris’ central contract was suspended by the PCB just days before the start of the PSL season after the pacer opted out of the Test series against Australia. He’s gone for runs in both the matches and has just one wicket across seven overs.

“Haris Rauf is a strong player and always thinks positively,” said Shaheen, who is also Pakistan’s T20 International skipper. “I hope he backs himself and I’m sure he’ll perform well.”

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2024

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