Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars will face-off in the 26th fixture of the HBL Pakistan Super League under National Stadium floodlights on Thursday with both the sides aiming to strengthen their chances of qualifying for next week’s playoffs.
The match is further spiced up following last week’s thriller at the jam-packed Gaddafi Stadium in which Lahore Qalandars chased down out a 188-run target for the loss of two wickets to leave Karachi Kings shell-shocked.
On the points table, Qalandars, thanks to their three consecutive victories, are occupying third place on eight points from as many matches, while Kings are sitting fifth on seven points. However, Kings have played one less match with all their last three league fixtures scheduled in front of their home fans
While this will be Qalandars’ first match at the National Stadium, Kings will be appearing in their third match at the venue. Kings had made an impressive start when they scored 201 for four, event’s second-highest team score to date, and then restricted Peshawar Zalmi to 191 for seven. But they were at the wrong end of the stick against Quetta Gladiators when they lost by five wickets despite restricting the reigning champions to 55 for three after they had been set a 157-run target.
Qalandars’ remarkable comeback has been driven by their Australian overseas player Ben Dunk. The 33-year-old Queenslander has scored 257 runs, including a punishing 93 against Gladiators and a ruthless 99 not out against Kings. Dunk is now just nine runs behind the tournament’s leading run-getter Islamabad United’s Luke Ronchi (266 runs in eight matches).
The other positive news for Qalandars has been the return to form of Fakhar Zaman and Chris Lynn, who stroked half-centuries against Peshawar Zalmi on Tuesday while adding 116 runs for the second wicket. Fakhar now has 172 runs, while Lynn is six runs behind on 166.
Fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi has been Qalandars’ leading wicket-taker with 11 wickets, but the real contributor has been Samit Patel. The 35-year-old has taken nine wickets and scored 132 runs.
Karachi Kings have relied heavily on Alex Hales and Babar Azam, and the stats confirm this fact as the two are sitting in the 200-run group. Hales has 239 runs and is sixth on the list of leading run-getters, while Babar has scored 225 and is ninth.
However, Kings have been provided the real impetus in the middle of the innings by Chadwick Walton who has scored his 115 runs at a staggering strike-rate of 162.
With Kings preparing to launch for the crucial matches, they will be hoping Imad Wasim and Sharjeel Khan return to form. The two have scored 95 and 88 runs, respectively.
Mohammad Amir is Kings’ leading wicket-taker with 10 wickets, followed by Chris Jordon (seven) and Imad Wasim and Umer Khan (four apiece).
Apart from the Karachi Kings-Lahore Qalandars high-profile fixture, the other mouth-watering match is expected to be between Karachi Kings and Islamabad United on 14 March.
Irrespective of how Thursday’s match pans out, Saturday’s match may potentially end United’s journey if they end up on the losing side. United, the two-time winners, have seven points and their fixture against Kings will be their last league match.
With Multan Sultans already assured of a place in the play-offs, Peshawar Zalmi will be eying for a place in the last four when they will lock horns with Sultans on Friday. The match will start at 8pm.
Friday’s match will be Zalmi’s last league match. They are presently sitting second on the points table and have nine points with four wins. A win against Sultans will guarantee them a place in the last-four.
Karachi will also be the venue of the Qualifier, when the top-two sides will feature on Tuesday, 17 March. The winner of this match will qualify for the 22 March final, while the losing side will have another opportunity to qualify for the final when they will take on the winner of 18 March fixture on 20 March.
Upcoming matches in Karachi:
12 March – Karachi Kings v Lahore Qalandars (7pm-10.15pm)
13 March – Peshawar Zalmi v Multan Sultans (8pm-11.15pm)
14 March – Karachi Kings v Islamabad United (7pm-10.15pm)
15 March –Quetta Gladiators v Karachi Kings (7pm-10.15pm)
17 March – Qualifier (1 vs 2) (7pm-10.15pm)