Four days into the Pakistan Super League (PSL), each team has played two matches. Following a two-day break, the teams will resume their journey in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Moving the tournament from Dubai, matches resume on Wednesday, with Multan Sultans taking on table-leaders Quetta Gladiators on Wednesday, February 20th. That will be followed by Karachi Kings against feared Peshawar Zalmi the next day. In this article, I’ll preview both games, but especially focus on Multan and Karachi and see how they can dethrone their opponents.
Match 8: Multan Sultans vs. Quetta Gladiators
Though Quetta has dominated the PSL so far, Multan could be their biggest challenge yet. Multan has done well this season in restricting the oppositions’ batting, something which Quetta hasn’t felt yet. In Multan’s two matches so far, they forced Islamabad United to settle for 125-7 and took six wickets in the space of 26 runs against Karachi. Against Islamabad, left-arm pace seemed to be the key for Multan as Mohammad Irfan bowled with an economy of 4 and Ali Shafiq and Junaid Khan took 2 wickets apiece.
Quetta’s biggest strength is their unbeatable batting. In their first match, they successfully chased Peshawar’s 155-4 followed by chasing Islamabad’s 157-8, that too on a green-wicket. But in both of these matches, Quetta’s batted second. What would happen if they were to be put into bat first by Multan?
Unlike Dubai, the wickets in Sharjah are generally flatter and the boundaries smaller, creating fertile soil for batsmen to get runs. But Sharjah’s pitches also spin a lot more too. Especially for leg-spinners. And Multan has Shahid Afridi: only like the most successful leg-spinner in the history of T20 cricket. Along with Afridi, the bowling of Chris Green and Shoaib Malik can be put to use. Malik’s a smart captain when it comes to bowling. If he focuses on his spinners and uses them right, Multan can bag this match.
Though it’s more likely Multan will also bat better here than in Dubai, they do need to stabilize their batting. In the two games thus far, as Malik stays at the crease, wickets seem to consistently fall at the other end. Malik alone can’t win matches for Multan so the likes of Andre Russell and Shahid Afridi need to protect their wicket.
My prediction: Time for a shift of balance in the table. Malik’s captaincy will give Multan and advantage over Sarfaraz Ahmed’s Quetta and Multan will win the chase.
Match 9: Karachi Kings vs. Peshawar Zalmi
So Karachi loses to Lahore Qalandars by 22 runs and then Lahore is skittled by Peshawar the next day, being bowled out for 78. Yeah, if I was a Karachi fan, I’d best be scared. But coming into Sharjah, Peshawar shouldn’t be able to do that. The batting surface will likely play into Karachi’s favor actually as it’s a good opportunity for the likes of Babar Azam, Liam Livingstone or Imad Wasim to get some valuable runs. Along with that, Karachi’s record at Sharjah is much better than their record in Dubai.
Naturally, Karachi will need to beware of Kamran Akmal at the top of Peshawar’s batting list, along with perhaps Keiron Pollard or captain Darren Sammy. Umar Amin performed really well in the last match against Lahore with his 61(39), so he will definitely be getting a start vs. Karachi. Along with the pace of Sohail Khan, Usman Shinwari and Mohammad Amir, Karachi’s key factor will likely be the left-arm spin bowling of captain Imad Wasim and 19-year old star-boy Umer Khan.
My prediction: Karachi knows they can win as they demonstrated against Multan, but Peshawar can capitalize on any mistake. But if Karachi bat smart, they can win this in the first innings and put pressure on Peshawar’s batting in the second innings to win this match.