After an endless wait and a myriad uncertainties, the sixth edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) will finally resume at the majestic Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
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Former champions Islamabad United will take on the Lahore Qalandars in the first match as the six franchises gear up for the challenge of playing in the hot UAE weather conditions.
Due to the severe summer heat, the match starts at 8pm on Wednesday.
But the tournament will also see six double headers, including five in the league phase and one in the playoffs.
The first matches of the double headers will kick off at 5pm while the second games will only start at 10pm.
The PSL was suspended in March after just 14 matches in Pakistan due to multiple Covid-19 cases inside the bio-bubble.
With Pakistan bracing for a second wave of Covid-19 infections, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) decided to bring their premier T20 league to the UAE.
“It feels very good that our league is starting again after lot of hurdles. I am looking forward to the start now,” Pakistan captain Babar Azam, who opens the batting for the defending champions Karachi Kings, had told Khaleej Times recently.
The Karachi Kings, backed by the inclusion of New Zealand star Martin Guptill, will be the favourites again to win the title.
Four teams — Karachi Kings, Peshawar Zalmi, Islamabad United and Lahore Qalandars — earned six points each when the league was suspended, but Karachi were occupying the top position, thanks to their superior net run rate.
Babar had said Karachi would look to continue the momentum they had gained in the first phase of the league.
“The way we (Karachi Kings) started the PSL season, we have gained a lot of momentum from that start. Now we are at the top of the points table. The league is starting again now. So we will try to maintain the same momentum,” he had said.
While Karachi have a formidable team, the opening game between Lahore and Islamabad is likely to be an engrossing battle with both teams possessing some outstanding players.
If Lahore are blessed with players like Rashid Khan, Mohammad Hafeez, Fakhar Zaman, Ben Dunk and Shaheen Shah Afridi, then Islamabad have players like Shadab Khan, Colin Munro, Usman Khawaja and Hasan Ali.
“We have a good side. The return of Rashid Khan has strengthened our bowling attack,” Afridi told Geo.tv. “We are playing Islamabad United in the first match and then the next day we will be playing against Peshawar Zalmi, these two matches are important for us, we need a flying start to get the momentum and the first two games will be important. We are in the top four right now and the first target is to be among the top two sides on the points table,” the fast bowler added.
Meanwhile, Saeed Ajmal, assistant coach of the Islamabad United, was confident that his team would give the Qalandars a run for their money.
“Our players look fit and are raring to go, Hasan Ali has looked in great form and rhythm and so has Faheem Ashraf. Colin Munro has also looked in good shape in the nets. I am very confident that we will give Lahore Qalandars a tough time in the match,” Ajmal said.
Venue: Zayed Cricket Stadium (Abu Dhabi)
June 9: Lahore Qalandars v Islamabad United
June 10: Multan Sultans v Karachi Kings; Peshawar Zalmi v Lahore Qalandars
June 11: Islamabad United v Quetta Gladiators
June 11: Quetta Gladiators v Peshawar Zalmi
June 13: Islamabad United v Lahore Qalandars; Multan Sultans v Peshawar Zalmi
June 14: Islamabad United v Karachi Kings
June 15: Quetta Gladiators v Lahore Qalandars; Peshawar Zalmi v Karachi Kings
June 16: Multan Sultans v Quetta Gladiators
June 17: Islamabad United v Peshawar Zalmi; Karachi Kings v Lahore Qalandars
June 18: Multan Sultans v Lahore Qalandars
June 19: Quetta Gladiators v Karachi Kings; Multan Sultans v Islamabad United
June 20: Practice
June 21: Qualifier (1 v 2); Eliminator 1 (3 v 4)
June 22: Eliminator 2 (loser Qualifier v winner Eliminator 1)
June 23: Rest/practice
June 24: Final
Note: Single matches to start at 2000 UAE time; double-headers to start at 1700 UAE time and 2200 UAE time, respectively