After an enthralling opening night of the fourth edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), the tournament now moves into its second match, that also promises to be a fascinating contest.
The defending champions, Islamabad United, kick-started their campaign with a win over the Lahore Qalandars, in a night that was full of entertainment.
Moving onto the second day, the Dubai International Cricket Stadium will be the host to a double-header on Friday, with the evening match between Karachi Kings and Multan Sultans while the night match between Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators.
Karachi Kings, who finished 3rd last season, have changed their strategy from the previous seasons by picking utility players and not chasing any big names. The arrivals of Sikander Raza, Liam Livingstone, Aaron Summers and Ben Dunk alongside other big names will boost the Karachi Kings squad.
The side will be captained by Imad Wasim while the presence of Pakistani superstars in Babar Azam, Mohammad Amir and Usman Shinwari provides for a delightful blend of experience and youth in the squad. The Kings have qualified for the play-offs in all of the past three seasons, but are yet to make the final. With the final being played in Karachi again this year, they will hope to start off their campaign in style.
On the other hand, the sixth franchise that had been dealing with ownership issues is finally settled and is looking to start the season off with a bang. The Multan Sultans will be captained by the veteran Shoaib Malik, who also happened to be the skipper of the Kings in the first two seasons.
However, the major highlight will be the arrival of the Pakistani superstar, Shahid Afridi. Coincidentally, the leg-spinner was also part of the Karachi Kings last season, and will be looking to provide his valuable insight on the team. Despite the side being jolted by the unavailability of many of its players including Nicholas Pooran, Steve Smith and Joe Denly, the replacements have helped the Sultans build a competitive squad.
Players to watch out for:
One of the top run-scorers for the Karachi Kings franchise in the PSL has been Babar Azam. The presence of the number 1 T20I batsman in the world will surely boost the confidence of the Karachi Kings team. Coming on the back of an outstanding personal tour of South Africa, fans expect Babar Azam to continue his prolific form and begin the 2019 PSL campaign on a high.
The Multan Sultans will heavily rely on their Pakistani talent of all-rounders and bowlers and the name that stands out the most is that of Shahid Afridi. The ever-green superstar has just arrived following a victorious BPL campaign and there is no doubt that when the 38-year-old is on song, there is no mercy for the bowlers.
Predicted playing XI:
Karachi Kings: 1. Babar Azam, 2. Liam Livingstone, 3. Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 4. Colin Ingram, 5. Ravi Bopara, 6. Sikander Raza, 7. Imad Wasim (capt), 8. Amir Yamin / Sohail Khan, 9. Ali Imran / Umer Khan, 10. Mohammad Amir, 11. Usman Shinwari
Multan Sultans: 1. Shan Masood / Umar Siddiq, 2. Johnson Charles (wk), 3. Laurie Evans, 4. Shoaib Malik (capt), 5. Daniel Christian, 6. Andre Russell, 7. Shahid Afridi, 8. Mohammad Irfan (4) , 9. Mohammad Ilyas, 10. Junaid Khan, 11. Mohammad Irfan
Both Karachi Kings and Multan Sultans are well-balanced with both the bat and the ball. However, with the presence of the Pakistani and foreign star power, Multan Sultans will be heading into the game as the favourites.