SHARJAH: Last year’s bottom two Pakistan Super League (PSL) sides Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars battle it out in a four-pointer at the Sharjah Stadium that may well end up deciding which of the two sides goes through to the play-offs.
The two were the most expensive franchises and have had relatively star-studded squads that have under-performed remarkably. It is more of the same this time around as well, with the two having won just one match between them.
Karachi have lost both their matches while Lahore have won one but lost two. Karachi’s only win in last year’s competition came in the two matches against Lahore, helping them sneak through to the play-offs ahead of their rivals.
One player that would be particularly eager to perform would be out-of-form West Indies superstar Chris Gayle. The left-handed opener has been poor so far and would be looking to return to form against his former team, who swapped the explosive hitter for Karachi’s bowling all-rounder Sohail Tanvir.
So far Lahore seem to have gotten the better end of that swap, with Sohail claiming two wickets for 35 runs in six overs; an excellent return in terms of both economy and average. Gayle, on the other hand, has made 12 runs off 23 balls across two games; a far cry from the devastating force he has proven himself to be in the past.
Despite defeat in their last game at the hands of Peshawar Zalmi, skipper Brendon McCullum would be heartened with the fight shown by his players; who almost managed to defend a below-par score of 60, claiming seven wickets and giving Peshawar a run for their money.
Promising batsman Fakhar Zaman was perhaps the only one of the two sides that looked truly comfortable out there, scoring 33 off 18 balls in his side’s 59. However, he knows a similar batting failure cannot occur.
“We have worked on our weaknesses in the three-day gap we have had,” Zaman told The Express Tribune. “We haven’t performed as well as we can in the past three matches. It isn’t about one or two players performing to win, it’s about the entire team giving it their best.”
Zaman added that the team has worked on strengthening its middle-order, which has failed to deliver consistently this year.
Meanwhile, young pacer Saif Badar is optimistic his Lahore side can tame the star-studded Karachi Kings batting line-up.
“Karachi have household international names such as Gayle, Mahela Jayawardane and Kumar Sangakkara; those are the kind of batsmen you dream of dismissing,” he said. “I have trained a lot and am fit to play and trust my bowling skills against the greats.”
While Lahore showed superb fight in their last defeat, there is no such consolation for Sangakkara and his men, who failed to defend a much more substantial 160-run target against Quetta Gladiators despite having them in trouble at 30-3 at one stage.
However, their leg-spinner Usama Mir is adamant they can deliver in this game. “This a chance for us to claim our first points as Lahore haven’t been performing well so far,” said Mir. “I feel I have improved my bowling and the change in weather will also help us. Our seniors, as well as captain Sangakkara, have been trying to motivate us and we will be trying to win this for Karachi.”