The second game of the double-header on Friday sees PSL 2017 finalists face each other off in their opening game. The eventual champions of that season, Peshawar Zalmi, face the Quetta Gladiators in a well-anticipated contest.
The two teams have had an intense rivalry over the past three seasons with 1 run deciding victory between the two teams on three occasions. The latest 1-run win went in the favour of Peshawar Zalmi, when they defeated the Quetta Gladiators in the Eliminator in Lahore last year.
Coming back to the new season, both Quetta and Peshawar have dealt with the departures of few of their heavyweights. Nevertheless, both sides have also added enough fire-power in their squad to compete for the title.
Peshawar Zalmi are being captained by Darren Sammy for the third consecutive season, and have added in experienced players for this season. The likes of Misbah Ul Haq and Kieron Pollard have been drafted into the Zalmi side to strengthen their batting department.
The last year runners-up will be looking to cash in on the return of Dawid Malan, Sohaib Maqsood and Andre Fletcher while the bowling department will be led by the Pakistani spearheads in Wahab Riaz and Hasan Ali.
On the other hand, Quetta Gladiators continue to be led by the Pakistan skipper, Sarfraz Ahmed, for the fourth consecutive season. The management has picked the players pretty interestingly this year, after the team had suffered due to the international players not travelling to Pakistan during the latter stages of the tournament.
The addition of the West Indian talent in the form of Dwayne Bravo and Sunil Narine have boosted Quetta’s chances to go through. Moreover, the experienced Pakistani duo of Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal will also strengthen the chances of the two-time finalists.
Players to watch out for:
Kamran Akmal is the highest run-scorer in the history of the Pakistan Super League and he tormented the bowlers with ease last season. He finished second to Luke Ronchi in the run-scoring charts last year and he will be looking to begin this year as well in blistering form.
Another player that Quetta played a gamble on is Kamran’s brother, Umar Akmal. The 28-year-old has for years been named Pakistan’s top talent. However, the lack of form and discipline has seen him fall down the pecking order. Nevertheless, Quetta Gladiators traded Umar from Lahore Qalandars, where Akmal spent all three seasons. Umar Akmal will be hoping to get back into form and come back into the national scene.
Predicted playing XI:
Peshawar Zalmi: 1. Kamran Akmal (wk), 2. Dawid Malan, 3. Sohaib Maqsood / Umar Amin 4. Misbah Ul Haq, 5. Kieron Pollard, 6. Darren Sammy (capt), 7. Liam Dawson, 8. Hasan Ali, 9. Wahab Riaz, 10. Ibtisam Sheikh, 11. Umaid Asif / Sameen Gul
Quetta Gladiators: 1. Ahmed Shehzad, 2. Shane Watson, 3. Dwayne Smith, 4. Umar Akmal, 5. Rilee Rossouw, 6. Sarfraz Ahmed (wk & capt), 7. Mohammad Nawaz, 8. Anwar Ali, 9. Sohail Tanvir, 10. Fawad Ahmed, 11. Ghulam Mudassar
The addition of experience in both the squads make them heavyweights for the PSL title. However, the absence of a few big names from the Peshawar Zalmi side might make the Quetta Gladiators the favourite to win the contest.