LAHORE: As reigning champions Peshawar Zalmi will take on starless Quetta Gladiators in the second play off here at the Gaddafi Stadium today (Tuesday), the foreign players on Monday started arriving in the metropolis which gave a festive look.
Despite the Sunday’s drubbing at the hands of Islamabad United, the Kings are not eliminated as they will take on the winners of the first eliminator taking place between the Gladiators and Zalmi at the Gaddafi Stadium. This high-voltage match will begin at 700pm PST.
All foreign players of Peshawar Zalmi, including skipper Darren Sammy, Liam Dawson, Rikki Wessels, Chris Jordan, Tamim Iqbal and Ander Fletcher, are in the city and are willing to represent their team in the Lahore’s playoff and later if they make the final. However, Dwayne Smith has flown back to West Indies owing to family reasons. A famine of foreign players has once again ditched Sarfraz-XI as their two key players — Kevin Pieterson and Shane Watson — have refused to visit Pakistan. However, the South African hard-hitter Rilee Rossouw changed his mind at the last moment and announced to join the Gladiators’ squad.
In the league stage, both teams faced each other twice and won one each respectively. Former Pakistan captain and frequently-ignored, despite having scored a mountain of runs in domestic cricket, Kamran Akmal is in his inspiring self, having played a key role in Zalmi’s wins. He has also hit the only century of PSL 2018. With batting average of 43.37 in the ongoing season at an impressive strike-rate of 145.79, the senior Akmal will be the player to look out for.
Meanwhile, in the absence of Shane Watson and Kevin Pieterson, all-rounder Anwar Ali can play the key role for the Gladiators. Ali is the Gladiators’ third highest wicket taker in the current season thus far whereas he has the potential to swing the game with his bat.
The Quetta Gladiators was one of the most consistent sides in the PSL. They qualified for the playoffs of the 2018 edition in grand style. However, with the playoffs scheduled to be played in Lahore, they have received major blows ahead of it. The star overseas players of the team have decided to pull out of the Pakistan leg of the tournament. The Australian duo of Ben Laughlin and Shane Watson has opted out of the tournament. The loss of Shane Watson will certainly hurt the Quetta Gladiators. Watson is the third leading run getter in the season with 319 runs to his name. The team for the second eliminator Karachi Kings flew to Lahore on Monday morning to play a playoff match in the third edition of Pakistan Super League (PSL) on March 21. Strict security arrangements were put in place on the route from Lahore airport to the hotel. Kings received sound hammering in the qualifier at the hands of Islamabad United in Dubai on Sunday.
Abdul Mohi Shah adds from Islamabad: Sarfraz vowed to put up his best efforts to leave the Peshawar Zalmi behind for a place in a pre-final against Karachi Kings.
Talking to The News on telephone from Lahore, Sarfraz said it would be the second time lucky for his team against the Zalmi team that won the PSL 2 final against the same opponents last year at the same venue. “Look we are ready to put up our best efforts and hopefully this time around we would prevail over Zalmi for a place in the pre-final against the Karachi Kings.” He rued missing Kevin Pietersen and Shane Watson for the team’s key matches in Pakistan.
“We were expecting both to travel to Pakistan for these matches and initially they planned so. What happened to them and why they changed their decision we have no answer. They had been important part of our success and their role here would have been crucial.”
Sarfraz believed that Quetta Gladiators could beat Zalmi without the two leading players. “We have got some quality foreign and local players with us and are looking forward to them to win it for Zalmi,” he said.