Peshawar Zalmi seek to end Multan Sultans surge to reach final

By: News Desk      Published: 08:31 PM, 16 Mar, 2020
Peshawar Zalmi seek to end Multan Sultans surge to reach final

After a high-octane double round-robin league, which was embellished by scintillating on-field performances, four teams will be vying for the two berths for the final of the HBL Pakistan Super League 2020 when the two semi-finals are played at Gaddafi Stadium, Pakistan’s home of cricket, on Tuesday, 17 March.

In the first semi-final, Sultans will face Peshawar Zalmi, the 2017 edition’s winners and two-time runners-up, at 2pm.

Multan Sultans were the most successful side in the group-stage with six wins from 10 matches. They were perched at the top of the points table for the most part of the tournament and were the first ones to secure a semi-final spot.

Zalmi, on the other hand, oscillated from wins to defeats over the course of their 10-match journey to date. They enter the semi-finals ranked fourth with four wins and one of their matches getting washed-out.

Sultans came out on top on both occasions when the two teams met in the group matches. They won the first match by six wickets with as many as 31 balls remaining at Multan Cricket Stadium, their home, and secured a three-run win in a closely-fought match at Karachi’s National Stadium. For Sultans, traveling to Multan played a huge role where they won all three matches and got the desired momentum.

Their captain Shan Masood has been leading the batting unit from the front. The left-handed top-order batsman has piled up 253 runs, which include a half-century, at an average of 32. He is the highest run-getter for his side and sits sixth in the chart for the highest overall run-getters.

That Khushdil Shah, the hard-hitting middle-order batsman, scored a 70 not out at a staggering strike rate of 241 in their last group match on Sunday bodes well for Sultans, who have their batting-order full of experienced T20 players like England’s Moeen Ali, Ravi Bopara and all-rounder Shahid Afridi.

Sultans’ bowling unit boasts some of the top T20 globetrotters in Sohail Tanvir and Imran Tahir, who have made an impact over the course of the tournament. Both bowlers have picked up 10 wickets each.  Sohail has given away a mere 15.30 runs apiece, while Tahir’s one wicket has cost 18.60 runs to his side.

Sohail, the left-arm fast-medium, is having an extraordinary run this edition. His economy rate of 6.80 makes him the only bowler who has given less than seven runs amongst the bowlers who have bowled at least 20 overs. During this edition, he also became the first Pakistani bowler to cross the 350-wicket milestone in T20 cricket.

But what will make Zalmi, who are led by Wahab Riaz, wary of Sohail is his role in Sultans’ six-wicket win over them in which the 35-year-old returned four for 13.

Multan Sultans captain Shan Masood said: “We have played really good cricket and there’s been a difference between the first team and the rest of the pile from which we should take a lot of heart. We have done all the hard work over the past month and now is the time to make sure that we produce the performances on the day and get the result for which we have been working.

“Peshawar Zalmi have always been a domestic heavy outfit and that is why you always see them at the top of the table. I am not surprised that they are in the semi-finals. They have got a lot of match winners and we have to respect every single one of them tomorrow and make sure we execute our plans. This is our first involvement in the knockout stages so we should be looking forward to that rather than putting any burden on ourselves. We have actually done the first step right, which is qualifying for the semi-finals, and now it up the players to go out there and express themselves tomorrow.”

Zalmi, on the other hand, boast Pakistan’s leading T20 players.

Kamran Akmal, the highest run-getter in the history of HBL PSL, continues to live-up to the expectations of the fans and is the top-scorer for Zalmi in the ongoing tournament. The wicketkeeper-batsman has piled up 251 runs at a strike rate of 162 and struck his third HBL PSL century in Zalmi’s second match of the tournament.

Veteran T20 all-rounder Shoaib Malik, who also holds the record for being the only Pakistan batsman to score more than 2,000 T20I runs, has been in form. He has smashed three half-centuries and his 239 runs have come at an average of over 34.

The rise of Haider Ali, their emerging pick, has caught everyone’s attention as the 19-year-old has proved his selection right with his artful strokeplay and hard-hitting abilities. Haider has made 239 runs at a strike rate of 158. His most impressive innings came against Qalandars, albeit in a losing cause, when he scored his maiden T20 half-century (69 off 43) and added 116 runs for the fourth wicket with Malik, when Zalmi were struggling at 24 for three.

Wahab, who has been the highest wicket-taker in the HBL PSL history with 76 scalps in 54 matches, continues to spearhead Zalmi’s bowling attack. The left-arm quick has 11 wickets at an average of 23 – which makes him the highest wicket-taker from his side and sits at the third spot in the chart for the top wicket-takers in this tournament.

Wahab will be supported by Hasan Ali, who is the second highest wicket-taker in the history of the tournament with 59 wickets, and Rahat Ali. Both pacers have eight wickets in nine matches with their economy rates hovering between eight and nine runs.

Peshawar Zalmi captain Wahab Riaz said: “It is a big occasion for me to be leading Peshawar Zalmi in the semi-final and it is something which I cannot explain in words. It is a huge responsibility given to me and the franchise has believed in me. I would like to repeat our 2017 campaign and win the trophy, for which we have the capability. Nerves are always there. That’s something I cannot deny as it is a big pressure game but my boys are my strength and I believe and trust in everyone who is going to play tomorrow. Each and every one of them is a match winner and I am hopeful that they are going to deliver. We bowled very well in the last game against Multan Sultans and I feel we can restrict their batsmen really well. It has been a great tournament and there was a lot of competition. One could never predict which team was going to make it to the top four. I rate the quality of cricket in this edition to be higher than the last four tournaments.”