Karachi Kings, Peshawar Zalmi, Islamabad United and Lahore Qalandars tied on six points as PSL resumes - but Multan Sultans and Quetta Gladiators have founds things much tougher and prop up the table; watch PSL live on Sky Sports Cricket from Wednesday
Tuesday 8 June 2021 06:37, UK
The Pakistan Super League's sixth edition resumes on Wednesday, having been suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The action has switched to the United Arab Emirates now - but how did the teams fare in the first 14 games in Karachi? Tanzil Khawaja assesses…
Defending champions Karachi Kings have put themselves in a fantastic position near the halfway stage as their superior net run-rate means they currently sit top of the pile. The Kings kicked off their defence with a statement of intent as they skittled the Quetta Gladiators for 121, then chased down the target in 13.5 overs courtesy a quickfire 46 off 23 from Joe Clarke and a brilliant 14-ball 30 from Mohammad Nabi.
The Kings lost their next match against Islamabad United despite posting 196 via a Sharjeel Khan hundred - an innings which saw him go from 11 off 19 balls to a century off 54 balls. Kings then chased down 196 in their third match thanks to chiefly to Babar Azam (90no off 60) and Joe Clarke (54 off 26).
CricViz data shows that, overall in the UAE, Karachi Kings have a win percentage of 42.1 per cent, which is the third lowest of all the PSL teams to have played there
Their fourth match ended in heartbreak as the Kings failed to defend 186 - something they should have done as they had Lahore Qalandars needing 30 off the last two overs, but it was David Wiese's willow that took Qalandars over the line with four balls to spare.
Then there was a six-wicket win over Peshawar in their fifth game, a match that saw the Kings chase down 189 via some splendid batting by Babar (77no off 47) and brutal hitting by Nabi (67 off 35).
After the departures of Nabi, Dan Christian and Clarke, a lot will be riding on this season's second and third highest run-scorers respectively in Babar and Sharjeel. Should the top two fail to fire, Kings could find themselves exposed to a weakened middle order. The fans will be hoping the wheels do not come off after such a promising start.
2017 champions Zalmi will be very pleased with how things have gone, considering the fact around this time last year they were second from bottom. Zalmi have been a PSL powerhouse, finishing first in the group stage in three out of four seasons and been runners up two years running, but last season they finished in fourth spot.
This season did not get off to a good start as they lost their first match to Lahore Qalandars, only managing to post a 140-6. Things picked, though, as Zalmi then won three on the trot. Their second match was a six-wicket win over Multan Sultans chasing down 194 via contributions from Imam-ul-Haq (48 off 39), Kamran Akmal (37 off 24) and Tom Kohler-Cadmore (53 off 32).
They went even further in their third match as they successfully chased down 199 - needing 27 off the last two overs, Dale Steyn being belted for 21 runs in the penultimate over, followed by five wides in the last by Mohammed Hasnain sealed an incredible win for Peshawar.
Zalmi have a respectable 56.4 per cent win percentage in the UAE, which is the second-highest amongst PSL teams.
The fourth match was extremely one-sided as Islamabad United were bowled out for a measly 118, set up by skipper Wahab Riaz's 4-17, with the batsmen making light work of the chase. The top spot was decided by Peshawar's fifth game - Zalmi ultimately losing out to Karachi courtesy of a six-wicket loss as they ended up in second place.
The signing of Afghanistan spinner Waqar Salamkheil - who has played 22 T20 matches and taken 33 wickets at an average of a shade under 20 - may help Peshawar fill the void left by Mujeeb Ur Rahman. Batting is still a very big strength for Zalmi and despite the departures of English trio Ravi Bopara, Liam Livingstone and Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Zalmi still have enough firepower to turn to.
Haider Ali's 119 runs at an incredible strike rate of 175 and Sherfane Rutherford's 129 runs at 151.76, along with the signing of Fabian Allen - who has a T20 career strike rate of 153.94 - ensure that even if Zalmi's other batsmen fail to fire, there is plenty of depth to rely on.
Islamabad United, the only franchise to win two PSL titles, have started well in their pursuit of a third title after a disastrous rock-bottom finish last season, in which they took only seven points from 10 matches. This season has been in stark contrast to Islamabad taking six points from four games.
Needing 20 runs off the last two overs in their first match, Lewis Gregory ensured a three-wicket victory over Multan Sultans as he carted Sohail Tanvir to all parts of the ground. United then locked horns with Karachi in a match seen as this year's two strongest sides battling it out. United came out on top, chasing down 197 with five balls to spare - Alex Hales' 21-ball 46 laying before contributions from Iftikhar Ahmed (49no), Hussain Talat (31) and Asif Ali (21 off 9) meant United crossed the line without too much drama.
Faheem Ashraf and Hasan Ali both feature in the top five (first and fourth respectively) for best bowling averages in the PSL in the UAE (minimum 20 wickets) – Faheem averaging 17.1 and Hasan 19.5.
Their third match against Peshawar was a disastrous display of batting as they were dismantled by Wahab but they bounced straight back with a six-wicket win over Quetta Gladiators.
United will be without Hales and Paul Stirling for the restart and the former will certainly be missed - he was Islamabad's highest-scorer this year with 139 runs at a strike rate of 171.6, the third-highest strike rate amongst the top-10 run-scorers this season. United have drafted in Colin Munro, Brandon King and Usman Khawaja but they might not be the answers to Hales' departure.
Though Munro has a higher strike rate in the PSL against spinners (170.8 vs spin compared to 122.4 vs pace) he averages under 20 with a strike rate of 125 in the UAE. King only averages 13 in T20 cricket since November 2019 whilst this will be the first time Khawaja plays a T20 in the UAE.
Statistically speaking, Lahore Qalandars are the worst-performing PSL team since the tournament's inception, with a win percentage of only 39.62 per cent. In fact, before last season, the Qalandars had finished bottom of the table every single year. Their fortunes changed in season five as they went all the way to the final, finishing runners up, and have made a decent start to this year's campaign.
Shaheen Shah Afridi's 3-14 against Zalmi ensured a four-wicket win - incredibly the Qalandars' first-ever win in their opening match. After restricting Quetta to 178 in their second match, Fakhar Zaman's 52-ball 82 not out and Mohammad Hafeez's sublime 73 off 33 completed a nine-wicket victory for the Qalandars. Their charge was halted by Sultans in their third match as they only managed to post 157 which the Sultans chased down in just over 16 overs.
One stat from CricViz that will worry Qalandar fans is that they have the lowest win percentage in the UAE – a paltry 29.4 per cent. However, one thing that will offset that is the confirmation that
Lahore did save their best for their biggest match so far - a repeat of last year's final against bitter rivals Karachi. After posting 186 and having Lahore needing 30 runs off 12 balls, defeat seemed to be on the cards but a 20-run penultimate over, two sixes off the first two balls of the last, and Wiese's nine-ball 31 not out took Qalandars over the line with four balls to spare.
Rashid Khan is back for the UAE leg and on the slower lower pitches the Qalandars will be banking on him to strangle the opposition as according to CricViz data, Khan has the second best economy rate in T20 history at 6.3rpo (min 5000 balls), and the best strike rate (16.3).
Pair that up with this year's second-leading wicket-taker, Shaheen who is averaging 12.55 (with a strike-rate of 10.6 it's easy to see why Qalandar fans feel they have the attack to possibly take them all the way. Qalandars have enlisted the services of players such as James Faulkner, Callum Ferguson, Joe Burns and Tim David to help plug the gaps left by the departing Denly, Tom Abell and their workhorse Wiese.
Sultans finished top of the table going into last year's play-offs. However, after losing their final group game they went on to lose the Qualifier and Eliminator 2 and that poor end has poured into the start of this season.
Mohammad Rizwan's 53-ball 71 against Islamabad helped Sultans post 150, a target that was chased down after Gregory dismantled Tanvir. Then, despite James Vince's solid knock of 84 off 55 and skipper Rizwan's quickfire 28-ball 41, Sultans lose their second game to Zalmi.
The Qalandars were up next, with Rizwan's sublime 49 ball 76 and Sohaib Maqsood's calm 61 off 41 helping the Sultans chase down 158 and get some points on the board - their only points of the season so far.
Game four put the Sultans against Karachi and after a solid start, being 122-1 in 11 overs, Multan lost their way and managed only 73 from the last nine to post 195, a total Karachi went on to top.
Then, after keeping Quetta to 176, Multan would have fancied the chase, especially as up until that point, all 13 matches of season six had been won by the chasing team. After a decent start, it seemed that it would be 14 games in a row. However, only skipper Rizwan (66 off 50) managed a score of note as only three other batsmen made it to double figures.
Multan will be hoping Rizwan and fast bowler Shahnawaz Dahani can help lift their spirits. Rizwan currently has the most runs in this year's edition (297) and fourth-best average of 59.40. Dahani, meanwhile, has been exceptional far, with the third-most wickets (nine) along with the second best strike rate (10.0).
According to CricViz data, Shahid Afridi’s economy rate of 6.7rpo is the third-best for any T20 bowler ever (min 5000 balls) and on the slower pitches of the UAE, so he would have been an asset to help strangle opposition batmen.
Shahid Afridi's bowling will certainly be missed as he will not be taking part due to injury, while Multan's slight batting weakness may come in their middle order. However, with signing of Shimron Hetmyer who, according to CricViz data, has been in excellent form, scoring at 12.3rpo in his six matches this year, Multan will be hoping they can turn things around.
2019 champions Quetta find themselves bottom of the table and, coming off a terrible run at the backend of last season, have won only two of their last 11 matches.
Chris Gayle's 39 off 24 balls was the only score of substance as they lost to Karachi. They showed a bit more fight with the bat against Qalandars, recovering from 12-2 as Gayle (68 off 40) and skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed (40 off 33) starred in a total of 178 but they still went on to lose. Quetta were then unable to defend 198 in their third match against Zalmi as efforts from Faf du Plessis (37 off 26), Sarfaraz (81 off 40) and Azam Khan (47 off 26) came in vain.
Things did not get any better for them as they suffered a fourth straight defeat at the hands of Islamabad, despite Sarfaraz's 54 off 41 balls. Quetta finally managed to get points on the board in their fifth match against Multan, with posting 176 thanks to an incredible 81 off 50 by PSL debutant Usman Khan and then becoming the first team so far this tournament to defend a target.
The Gladiators have struggled in every department - their batting average of 22.4, batting strike rate of 140, bowling average of 32.7, and economy rate of 9.3 are the worst for all teams this season CricViz's analysis suggests a shift to the UAE could work in the Gladiators' favour, however as they have the highest win percentage of all PSL teams in the UAE - a very impressive 63.1 per cent.
Skipper Sarfaraz’s 185 runs so far are the most of all Gladiator batsmen and fifth most overall this season and more importantly he has the lowest dot ball percentage (26.5%) in the PSL in the UAE amongst all batsmen.
Quetta's firepower has taken a hit as they will be without Tom Banton, Gayle and Ben Cutting for the restart but have enlisted the services of Australian duo Jack Wildermuth and Jake Weatherald and can further be buoyed by the fact their current batsmen - such as Saim Ayub, Cameron Delport, Azam Khan and skipper Sarfaraz - all strike higher against spin than they do pace.
Speaking of spin, though they may miss Qais Ahmad, they have signed on his compatriot Zahir Khan who, in his 63 game T20 career so far, has picked up 73 wickets with a career economy of 7.3 or lower in most of the major leagues around the world.
Last season, Lahore Qalandars went on to win four of their last five matches to lift themselves off the bottom and in to the play offs spot - a feat Gladiator fans will be hoping their team can replicate.
Watch the Pakistan Super League live on Sky Sports from 3.50pm on Wednesday.