Battered Sultans search for perfect combination against inspired Qalandars
The Pakistan Super League (PSL) could not have asked for a more explosive restart with two nerve-racking games laying a befitting platform for the fag-end of the tournament.
With Peshawar Zalmi knocked out of the competition, the PSL trophy is going to have the name of a new franchise inscribed on its silverware.
While Karachi Kings have earned a direct ticket to the final scheduled to be played on Tuesday, all eyes are glued to the scintillating clash between Lahore Qalandars and Multan Sultans in Eliminator 2.
It's uncharted territory for both teams since a win could seal them a place in the PSL final for the first time in the tournament's short history but it is the Qalandars who hold the advantage heading into the game.
For many folks, the unprecedented success of Qalandars appears to be unnatural as past history condemns to a status of being a punching bag with the most number of losses for a PSL team.
However, this season has seen a complete reversal of fortunes for the team and they are riding high from the uplifting victory over Peshawar Zalmi last night.
Having formed a compact unit fed by a supply of capable batsmen and a zesty pace bowling line-up, Qalandars have only raised the standard of performances as the tournament has progressed.
The win against Zalmi was sculpted by a sizzling display from the seamers upfront before Mohammad Hafeez stole the show whilst experiencing a dream run.
If there is one profound lesson one can infer from the Qalandars' remarkable campaign, it's the fact that you never underestimate the old guns and this mantra is reflected from the regular match-winning contributions from the likes of Hafeez, Ben Dunk and Samit Patel.
A slight concern for Qalandars, though, could be the absence of a specialist spinner in the team. Patel was not used much by the Lahore skipper Sohail Akhtar during their win over Zalmi whereas Hafeez was not called upon to bowl.
As the slow nature of the National Stadium surface suggests, if spin indeed has a large role to play in the encounter, the Sultans might have an edge over their counterparts.
Multan are spoilt for a host of options of wrist-spinners in their squad but their rusty power-hitters were exposed for their one-dimensional strokeplay in the agonising Super Over defeat to Karachi Kings in the Qualifier on Saturday.
For much of their data-oriented strategies, the decision to send in Ravi Bopara and Rilee Rossouw ahead of Khushdil Shah and Shahid Afridi in the crucial Super Over cast a dubious look on the Sultans management.
They would be hoping to rectify their mistakes, most of which occurred during their mediocre batting performance in the match against Kings.
Clueless running between the wickets and blind hoicks at wrong stages of the innings shows Multan really need to mull their batting plans before stepping out onto the middle tonight.
Lahore Qalandars: Sohail Akhtar (capt), Abid Ali, Ben Dunk (Australia), Dane Vilas (South Africa), David Wiese (South Africa), Dilbar Hussain, Fakhar Zaman, Farzan Raja, Haris Rauf, Jaahid Ali, Maaz Khan, Mohammad Faizan, Mohammad Hafeez, Samit Patel (England), Shaheen Shah Afridi, Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh), Usman Shinwari, Salman Irshad
Multan Sultans: Shan Masood (capt), Adam Lyth (England), Ali Shafiq, Bilawal Bhatti, Imran Tahir (South Africa), Joe Denly (England), Junaid Khan, Khushdil Shah, Brendan Taylor (Zimbabwe), Mohammad Ilyas, Mohammad Irfan, Ravi Bopara (England), Rilee Rossouw (South Africa), Rohail Nazir, Shahid Afridi, Sohail Tanvir, Usman Qadir, Zeeshan Ashraf