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Saturday November 27, 2021

Captains express optimism ahead of semis today

March 17, 2020

KARACHI: Four teams of the HBL Pakistan Super League 2020 will be battling for the final spots on Tuesday (today) when they clash in the semi-finals at the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore.

The stadium will be empty as has already been announced because of fears of the deadly coronavirus. This year’s edition has brought forward two new contenders for the title as Multan Sultans and Lahore Qalandars have gone beyond the group stage for the first time in the event’s history.

Prior to this edition, only Zalmi, Quetta Gladiators and Islamabad United had featured in the HBL PSL finals, which mean that there will be at least one new finalist in the March 18 title showdown.

Multan Sultans were the most successful side in the group-stage with six wins from ten matches. They were perched at the summit for most part of the tournament and were the first one to secure a semi-final spot.

Zalmi oscillated from wins to defeats over the course of their 10-match journey. They enter the semi-finals ranked fourth, with four wins. One of their matches was washed out.

Sultans came out on top on both occasions when the two teams met in the group matches. They won the first match by six wickets at Multan Cricket Stadium, their home, and secured a three-run win in a closely-fought match at Karachi’s National Stadium.

“We have worked hard over the past month and now is the time to make sure that we produce the performances and get the result for which we have been working,” Sultans’ skipper Shan Masood said.

“Zalmi have always been a heavy outfit. I am not surprised that they are in the semi-finals. They have got match winners and we have to respect every one of them tomorrow and make sure we execute our plans,” he said.

Zalmi skipper Wahab Riaz said they would try to repeat the 2017 performance. “It is a big occasion for me to be leading Peshawar Zalmi in the semi-final. It is a huge responsibility. I would like to win the trophy, for which we have the capability,” Wahab said.

“Nerves are always there. That’s something I cannot deny as it is a big pressure game but my boys are my strength and I trust everyone. Each of them is a match winner and I am hopeful that they will deliver,” he said.

Meanwhile, the biggest inter-city rivalry will come alive once again when Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars meet in the second semi-final.

Qalandars secured a comprehensive eight-wicket win against Kings at Gaddafi Stadium and Kings avenged it with a commanding 10-wicket win at the National Stadium.

That the semi-final line-up was decided on the very last group match was largely due to Lahore Qalandars, who have progressed beyond the group-stage for the first time after four attempts.

Qalandars finished at the third spot, while Karachi Kings were ranked second at the completion of the group-stage.

Lahore’s skipper Sohail Akhtar said they don’t have extra pressure on them. “I am very happy with how the team has performed over the course of this tournament and the whole unit is motivated and ready to perform,” he said.

“A semi-final is always a big match, but there is no extra pressure on us because of the fact that we are playing against Karachi Kings. All teams that have progressed this far are quality sides,” he added. “Though we have chased well, I believe our strength lies in bowling.”

Karachi Kings captain Imad Wasim said that they have made plans for Lahore. “Lahore Qalandars are a very good side, no doubt about that. We have plans for them; we have to execute them.

“I am very confident as we have firepower in both bowling and batting departments, we have players who can adapt to all conditions,” he said. “For me, it is a big moment to be leading Karachi Kings, who are a big franchise,” he said.