Pakistan Super League: Islamabad United gear up for title defence

Misbahul Haq-led side will face Peshawar Zalmi in match which will kick-off T20 league

Abdul Majid February 09, 2017
Islamabad, under captain Misbahul Haq, beat Quetta Gladiators in the final of the inaugural edition by six wickets to take home ‘The Shooting Star’ trophy. PHOTO COURTESY: ISLAMABAD UNITED

KARACHI: Pakistan Super League’s second edition is set to kick-off on Thursday with defending champions Islamabad United taking on Peshawar Zalmi in the opening match at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

Islamabad, under captain Misbahul Haq, beat Quetta Gladiators in the final of the inaugural edition by six wickets to take home ‘The Shooting Star’ trophy.

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The result was no less than a surprise since the team lost four out of its first six matches by good margins. However, they peaked at the right moment and won all of their last five matches.

This time they will be vying with four other franchises — Karachi Kings, Lahore Qalandars, Quetta and Peshawar Zalmi — for the prestigious ‘The Spirit Trophy’.

Meanwhile Peshawar, who were one the fiercest contenders for the title, were beaten by Islamabad in the third qualifier. They will be hoping that their new leader, West Indies’ World T20 winning captain Darren Sammy could lead them to silverware in the second edition.

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Islamabad opener Sharjeel Khan is looking to build on his performance from the previous edition. "It's a pleasure to be back with [head coach] Dean [Jones] and the rest of the Islamabad guys. The first PSL was a turning point in my career, and I want to continue to improve and do even better than I did last year."

Squad assessment

Islamabad: With big-hitters like Sharjeel Khan, Shane Watson, Khalid Latif and Sam Billings in the squad, Islamabad surely boast fireworks in their batting order.

Also, bowlers like Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Sami, Samuel Badree, Saeed Ajmal, Rumman Raees and Steven Finn can help their team in defending totals and restricting oppositions.

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Islamabad retained 17 players from the 2016 edition and that shows that they are relying on specialists rather than all-rounders to do the job for them this time around.

Peshawar: With a new captain in place, Zalmi will be looking to give the defending champions a run for their money in the second edition.

The likes of Shahid Afridi, Sammy, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Marlon Samuels, Eoin Morgan, Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal and Haris Sohail will assist the team with the willow.

Meanwhile, Wahab Riaz, Chris Jordan, Hassan Ali and Junaid Khan will be looking to deliver with the ball.

The opening ceremony

PSL chairman Najam Sethi on Wednesday, in a press conference held to introduce the stars of the opening ceremony, said that second edition will prove to be better in all aspects from the first one.

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“We will have provincial acts from all teams,” revealed Sethi in the press conference. “It also happened last year but this time it will be more dynamic. Then Shaggy, Ali Zafar and Shehzad Roy will be performing and I promise you it will be a treat to watch. Moreover, the production quality of the coverage will be better than last year.”